President’s Annual Report

ACT Equestrian Association Inc

Annual General Meeting

8 June 2017

This is my ninth annual report to affiliates of the ACT Equestrian Association.

In 2016-17 we had 20 affiliates and 1 associate across the spread of disciplines from trail riding to dressage. ACTEA’s strength is that is perceived by government to represent a broad range of equestrians so I want to thank affiliates for their continued support and remind them that there is power in numbers. When we make submissions to government on any issue it really matters that we can list the broad cross-section of the equestrian community that we represent. ACTEA provides local horse people with an opportunity to speak with one voice and we should not waste that power. Affiliation is incredibly cheap for what you get (Sport and Recreation Services keep telling us this) so please encourage clubs you know aren’t members to join up and participate.

ACTEA’s remit covers 2 broad areas – to act as an advocate for equestrians in the ACT in relationship to rotection, maintenance and enhancement of recreational facilities and to manage the infrastructure at Equestrian Park for the benefit of our equestrian community. I am going to report on the first of these. Annabel Dobson will report on the second on behalf of the Equestrian Park Management Group.

Workload

The President’s monthly reports, which appear on our website, are the best reflection of the broad range of issues and activities with which ACTEA was involved in 2016-17. They cover everything from the never ending business of ensuring trails stay open, the hard work of negotiating new or replacement trails and less exciting but important involvement in departmental policy making that will have an impact on all equestrian infrastructure into the future. Generally a few big issues consume most of our time and energy each the year.

We have had an extremely busy year and, I think, a moderately successful one. Over the last 12 months, on your behalf, members of the ACTEA Committee attended 65 meetings and site visits with politicians, government representatives and contractors. That works out at an average of a bit more than one a week. The Committee also made 31 representations and submissions, by telephone, email or in writing to government bodies or their consultants, including 4 formal submissions to a government public consultation processes – getting close to two a week. The meeting workload is about 20% higher than last year, so although we have made progress on highlighting horse related matters we seem to be making more work for ourselves because of this. This is also reflected in the fact that the representations have gone up by about 25%. The workload continues to reflects the fact that the government and its contractors now come voluntarily to ACTEA on development and policy issues far more frequently than in the past.

So what has all the work been about? Here are some of the key issues.

Ongoing Things From 2015-2016

Since the end of last May until the 13th of November we spent a lot of time, with input and support from Jane Hedges and other inhabitants of Rose Cottage horse paddocks, attempting to maintain safe equestrian routes in Isaacs Pines in the face of a government decision to formalise existing downhill bike tracks. We were unable to get rid of the tracks but we did manage to formalise existing equestrian trails, create new detours and get agreement to a range of signs, safety measures and event protocols associated with the bike tracks. Formal racing events are only likely to be held at Isaacs about twice a year, if that. The government has said There is no intention to build any further mountain bike trails at Isaacs Pines either through the volunteer group or with a paid contractor. The ACT Government will monitor and review the trail network at Isaacs Pines. Any future recreational planning in Isaacs Pines will involve extensive consultation with the community. What we need now is feedback on daily uncontrolled use by mountain bikers and any unsafe interactions.

The Government’s Horse Paddocks Review, which commenced in 2015, is still stalled. We have been advised by Gary Rake, Deputy Director-General of the Environment and Planning Directorate, that the report is not of a quality that he can do anything with. He has declined to elaborate on that. Either it makes no workable recommendations or it makes recommendations that are unacceptable or uncomfortable to the government. ACTEA needs to think carefully about its next move – especially in light of the government’s intentions expressed in this budget to push on with more land development.

While protocols and standards for public infrastructure are things likely to send most people to sleep with boredom, ACTEA has been working strenuously on very long documents for several years now to get a clear and easily accessible set of standards for equestrian infrastructure in Canberra. We now have design standards for trails, signalised road crossings, bridges, underpasses, cavalettis and signage, for both urban and the urban edge, in one place under the Roads ACT suite of Municipal Infrastructure Guidelines. The signage also includes the yield triangle that RoadsACT resisted for some time and a ‘give way to horses in underpass’ sign. Some of you will have seen signage and path stencils installed at Hindmarsh Drive, William Hovell Drive, Waldock Street and Cotter Road into Equestrian Park. As part of this process we are also continuing to pursue mapping of all known equestrian trails and inclusion of equestrian trails in the Active Travel amendments to the Territory Plan.

We have made little progress on the proposed float Parking area on the Cotter Road next door to Stromlo Forest Park to improve access and safety for equestrians wanting float their horses and to enable equestrian events to be held in the Park. SFP have expressed support and have has surveys done in regard to the best possible vehicle access. Many of the black wattles have been cleared but we haven’t got much further. We have also been promised better updated equestrian maps for the Park. Two things to follow up this coming year.

Protection of equestrian access into the Molonglo River Corridor is a constant on our agenda. While we now have maps with equestrian routes marked on them these are always under threat from public utilities and bright ideas for other recreational activities on the part of government. At the moment there is access from Equestrian Park to Southwells Crossing and from the parkland along Edgeworth Avenue in Wright up Holdens Creek to the underpass at John Gorton Parkway. There is a crucial bit missing in the middle there and the link from the Parkway to SFP is still incomplete although the Territory Plan has now been amended to set in concrete a recreational corridor for that purpose. The Molonglo Valley will continue to be a focus for us as the urban sprawl rolls relentlessly on. The Chief Minister has just announced $200,000 toward a project to scope the re-alignment of the East-West Arterial which will connect the John Gorton and Tuggeranong Parkways. The current projected alignment goes across the southern entrance of the Arboretum so it will be interesting to see what changes are proposed. In addition, we are still waiting for the release of the Molonglo River Park Plan of Management that seems to be taking forever to get out of the starting blocks.

We understand the horse yards at the Arboretum are getting a lot of use. It was however disappointing that the management elected to remove just about every tree in their vicinity this past year. The wattles were failing but the Director had promised me he would only take the trees out as they died instead, next summer, you may have to bring straw hats for your horses. There have been discussions about what they will be replaced with. We are asking for something that does not have bark, fruit or seed which could make a horse sick. We have no timetable for replanting. What we do have, at long last, is a map of equestrian routes in the Arboretum that will save people from finding themselves being shouted at on the events terrace. We have distributed it through our normal mailing lists but you can find it by doing a search for Arboretum on the ACTEA website. This map is timely in many ways because over the next decade we will be fighting to preserve our trails in this great facility against the Arboretum’s need to draw the tourist dollar. There is increased pressure from the mountain biking community for example.

The future of Belconnen Pony Club and the associated horse paddocks as well as the BNT has been tied up with the development of the Corkhills estate in West Belconnen running roughly north west from Strathnairn to Parkwood Rd for some year now. The land is now owned by the ACT Government and land for housing north of Strathnairn is now on the market. However, good work by Beth Stone and Lynda FFalkard means there is an MOU for the continuation of equestrian routes, including the Bicentennial National Trail, from Stockdill Drive to Belconnen Pony Club and Parkwood horse paddocks. Discussions continue around arrangements for the move of Belconnen Pony Club to the Fassifern area near Dunlop, perhaps within five years.

This time last year there was a fear that a private developer would be given the green light for an entire new suburb called Thompson between Tuggeranong Town Centre and the Molonglo River. This could have completely wiped out that stretch of the Bicentennial National Trail which had not even been recognised as an existing use. There was such a public outcry about the whole idea and the process that the Government established a community panel to look at all the issues and produce a report. The panel consisted of local sporting and residents groups, environment and business interests. We were there to represent the BNT. Such a diverse range of people with apparently conflicting agendas might have been expected to produce a mixed result but to my utter amazement they were as one in agreeing that the proposal was a dodgy idea based on poor research and with little merit. Since the report was finalised in May, Minister Mick Gentleman has said the suburb was as good as dead. That is not the end of it however. Since finding common ground the recreational elements of the panel have now looked at how they can expand their activities into the area. Jenny Costin, the BNT Coordinator, has attended the first meeting on this topic. I suspect we will be talking about this issue for a while yet.

Significant developments this year

Last year Parks and Conservation undertook a review of the Canberra Nature Park Plan of Management. ACTEA took the opportunity this review afforded to seek greater access for horses into a selected group of Nature Parks adjoining existing equestrian trails. We have been told that Parks is willing to consider increased access in the following areas:

  1. Mt Taylor and Wanniassa Loop
  2. Southern end of Cooleman Ridge NR
  3. Urambi Hills and McQuiods Hill

They insist on a consultation process which will include internal government stakeholders, park care groups, broader community consultation, representatives of horse riders and the ACT Conservator. They see The Pinnacle were we negotiated an additional trail as a good example and outcome. Just recently we also successfully negotiated formal access,into the Lyneham Woodlot next to Kaleen Horse paddocks. There is now a cavaletti in place there and equestrian signage and it is being used regularly. Nothing is going to happen however until the new Plan of Management is published.

The Weston Creek Dog Park was a big local issue this year. Initially, the corner of Hindmarsh Drive and Darwinia Terrace, right beside the front gate of Canberra Equestrian Centre and directly on the BNT route was the preferred option. Hundreds of equestrians voting multiple times on the Have Your Say website made it pretty clear it wasn’t popular with them. The Park was then shifted to the other end of Eucumbene Avenue. While the activity area itself is well shielded, the access road cuts right across the BNT route up Warragamba Avenue. We, and the Weston Creek Community Council, were unable to move the entrance road but after pretty intense lobbying Capital Works came up with a suit of measures they claim will make the entry safer for horses. In fact nearly all the requirements imposed under the Development Application process relate to the horse route. The next thing we expect to see is a draft Traffic Management Plan for the works.

Last year CSIRO announced their proposal to develop the large Ginninderra Field Station on the opposite side of the Barton Highway from Hall. ACTEA participated in the early public consultation on this and have met with the CSIRO and expressed concern that the existing equestrian trails around the outside of the CSIRO land be incorporated into the planning process. We have also asked them to consider including a horse paddock in the plan. There will be more interaction on this during 2017-18.

People on the north side will know that the construction of the Canberra Metro will have a significant impact on the equestrian link between Mt Majura and Kaleen Horse Paddocks through Crace Grasslands. The ACT government has recognised this; first by making access to the Lyneham woodlot easier and second by including an equestrian activated signalised crossing at the intersection of Flemington and Randwick Roads near EPIC. This will be the second such crossing in Canberra and it came without any argument! Such a change from the years it took us to get the Streeton Drive crossing. It will however be some time before any horse crosses Flemington Road again.

The other road thing happening is of course the Cotter Road duplication right in front of Equestrian Park. So far this has had little impact on competitions at the Park and is unlikely to. It has however had a significant impact on ridden access to the Park via either the Yarralumla Creek underpass or directly across the Road. The construction company, Huon, is required by their contract to keep the Park running and they are very good about not working when there are major events but they have struggled with the horses. Their initial proposal for a signalised crossing at McCulloch Street and a bridge over the Creek was not approved by RoadsACT on a number of grounds. While they have attempted to keep the underpass open it has been difficult in the context off building an actual bridge on top of it. I had a meeting with Project Manager yesterday and he now hopes to have a signalised crossing at the front gate in place in the next 2 weeks. They are only held up by the need to harmonise the horse lights with the Cotter Road lights. Watch this space.

Over the last year Parks and Conservation have been reviewing the very old Lower Cotter Management Plan. The Lower Cotter Catchment is that part of the Brindabellas that holds all the waterways that flow eventually into the enlarged Cotter Dam. Because this water is now part of our drinking water many things that used to happen in the area are now banned. The public consultation draft definitely banned horse riding in the Blue Range area. The final version, however, as a result of strong lobbying by ACTEA and ACTERA allows for horse riding ‘west of Brindabella Road’. Looks exciting! In reality there are so many conditions on that access (like taking your horse poo out with you and making an event application for every ride) that are impossible except for organised events. We were however, able to turn some of this into a positive and Parks have agreed, in the face of what is really non-access to the LCC, to look at opening up more management tracks around the Sherwood area to informal recreational riding. More work to come on this this year.

Just in the last couple of months local horse riders discovered that a nest of mountain bike tracks had been constructed in the pines south of the Zoo, effectively crossing the BNT trails access to the Arboretum in several places. Trail builders, The Kowalski Brothers, had been given permission by forestry management despite the existence of the BNT MOU and chose to ignore any prior use of the area. After some intense conversations Parks & Conservation are now committed to:

  • signage keeping bikes of the BNT route and reducing their impact on the internal management tracks
  • building a separate bridle from the River to the Zoo underpasses
  • reactivating an old fire trail along the kangaroo fence a an additional equestrian trail.

Meetings continue of this issue. And we will be pursuing action as fast as possible on each of the above.

Finally, this year, as a result of the breakup of the Land Development Agency, and probably for the first time, just about all the agencies we need to deal with will be under one Directorate. As Gary Rake the Deputy Director-General has appointed himself as our advocate in government, it will be up to us to make the most of this opportunity in the coming year.

So next year

  • keeping an eye on trail development in the Arboretum and Zoo Pines
  • engage the Parks Services in some long term planning for the Molonglo River Corridor
  • start negotiations for access to additional Nature Parks
  • work on mapping equestrian trails in Canberra
  • monitor developments that impinge on the BNT and other equestrian trails
  • participate in planning for the East-West Arterial
  • continue working on administrative and policy frameworks that cement equestrian access and infrastructure into the city’s planning process

Thank you

I want to thank all the Committee members who contributed to making 2016-175 the success it has been, most particularly Beth Stone, always carries a heavy workload.

I’d like to thank Debbie Morrissey, our departing treasurer, who has managed the finances for what is on the face of it quite a small organisation operating out of a mail box in Curtin shops but is in reality the equivalent of a small farming operation. Debbie is leaving us after 5 years with a computerised accounting system that makes producing budget plans and conducting audits a whole lot simpler than in the past. Her last act before departure will be looking at splitting her job and seeking paid assistance with the book keeping part of her job. The new Treasurer will have a much easier task; as I hope Debbie will when she doesn’t have to juggle us with her own life.

Another great loss will be Annabel Dobson, the Convenor of the Equestrian Park Management Group for the past 4 years, who is leaving to pursue some of her other interests. Annabel has been a significant part of the success of EPMG in managing the Park. It is no easy matter to wrangle a group of strong minded representatives of diverse Olympic disciplines constrained to share what is a relatively confined space. The EPMG is a highly effective team these days and a lot of it down to Annabel. I wish her all the best in her new interests.

I would also to acknowledge, wonder woman Kate MacKenzie who is doing a great job as Equestrian Park Manager (along with raising 3 children, training and campaigning an eventer, running the NCHTA Horse Trials and holding down a part time job).

We have had a pretty stable Committee this year including:

  • Vice-President Cathy Banwell from ACTERA
  • Kerryn Wilde from Pony Club Zone 16
  • Jennifer Margrisen who is a consistent reminder that you do not have to be a horse rider to make a useful contribution
  • We lost Julie Morris who’s move to Gundaroo eventually proved too much of a hurdle.

I would like to thank them all for their contribution. And also the other club delegates who turn up regularly and irregularly to our meetings. I should acknowledge in particular Jane Hedges who hasn’t let one of the most appalling of riding accidents put her off attending Committee meetings when she can and contributing to ACTEA’s work in other ways.

We are lucky that in general ACTEA Committee meetings are also attended by sufficient delegates making them general rather than mere Committee meetings. It is important to us that your clubs are involved in the decision making process. There are others who have given their time to provide feedback, turned up to field trips and meetings with officials, starred in movies or helped with particular issues or just gave encouragement.

Thank you to the incoming Committee whoever you are. When you, individually, becomes involved in issues of concern to you, you strengthen our profile in front of government, you learn techniques for dealing with bureaucrats and you understand better how government works – all powerful tools for you and your club. I strongly encourage all affiliates to become involved in growing the profile of our sport in the future.

 

Christine Lawrence

President

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