Lismore Turf Club's Secretary/Manager Michael Timbrell welcomes the decision by authorities to accept the blame for the equine influenza outbreak as it means the industry can take measures to ensure that it doesn't happen again.
Lismore Turf Club's Secretary/Manager Michael Timbrell welcomes the decision by authorities to accept the blame for the equine influenza outbreak as it means the industry can take measures to ensure that it doesn't happen again. Cathy Adams

Legal action threat on horse flu

PEOPLE from across the local horse racing industry are considering seeking compensation from the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service after a report compiled by retired High Court judge Ian Callinan blamed the authority for last year's devastating equine influenza outbreak.

Around 25 people from the Northern Rivers have been linked with a class action suit run by Gold Coast legal firm Atwood Marshall.

However, people ranging from horse feed suppliers to trainers to jockeys have said they may join the class action, though most have yet to make a firm decision.

Ballina jockey Lorna Cook, who is undecided on whether to join the class action, was forced to take an extra job stacking supermarket shelves to keep food on her family's table after racing was suspended.

"The EI did affect jockeys, some a lot more drastically than others, because for most of us it is our only income," she said.

"So when the racing is shut down, there goes any money coming in.

"I haven't really thought about (legal action). I don't think there is anyone in the industry who could say they didn't lose money.

"Whether you earn lots and lots or only earn a bit, everyone lost. You were not getting paid."

However, Lismore Turf Club secretary-manager Michael Timbrell said as yet his club is not involved in the class action.

"We haven't been approached," Mr Timbrell told The Northern Star.

"We wouldn't do anything on our own without first consulting Racing NSW.

"We were quite happy with the way they (Racing NSW) handled the outbreak.

"Obviously we welcome the authorities standing up to take the blame because it's the first step in making sure it doesn't happen again.

"Imagine what would happen if foot and mouth got into the cattle industry."

Lismore Turf Club was forced to postpone its Cup day from September to December.

"It's our major day and generates about 45 per cent of our revenue," Mr Timbrell said.

"We made about 70 per cent of what we normally do by having it in December. But we also lost a few general race meetings."

The Callinan report says the outbreak could have been avoided if fundamental biosecurity measures had been implemented. It's believed the outbreak cost the racing industry $1 billion.

It's scathing of Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) officers, saying they failed over a number of years to implement adequate biosecurity measures.

The report identified the Eastern Creek Quarantine Station as the source of the outbreak, which swept though NSW and Queensland last August and shut down the industry in those states for three months.

The Rudd government will accept all 38 recommendations of the Callinan report, while the deputy secretary and executive director of AQIS, Stephen Hunter, has stood aside as the director of quarantine over the horse flu breakout.

The Federal government will meet the estimated $108m cost of eradicating EI. Almost $350m has already been spent.

Queensland Racing Limited (QRL) says it's too early and inappropriate to talk of compensation.


Vessel washed to sea, destroyed in overnight incident

Vessel washed to sea, destroyed in overnight incident

Crew members had to jump from the sinking vessel

11 photos that prove spring is here

11 photos that prove spring is here

Spring is in the air, and our readers' photo reflect that this week

Your chance to see the best gardens in Lismore

Your chance to see the best gardens in Lismore

Learn the secrets of the region's green thumbs

Local Partners