Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Harness club benefits from unclaimed dividends

Echuca Harness Racing Club has benefited from a $74,261 equipment upgrade.

July 2, 2014 3:44am

Victoria Premier Denis Napthine with Echuca Harness Racing Club general manager Steve Ferguson.

Echuca Harness Racing Club has benefited from a $74,261 equipment upgrade, with a new tractor, vehicle and mobile barrier being bought.

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine was in good spirits at Echuca Harness Racing Club yesterday, before touring the facilities.

The funding came from the state government ($37,131), Harness Racing Victoria ($18,565) and the Echuca club ($18,565), though Dr Napthine was quick to point out the government’s contribution did not come from taxes.

‘‘This money comes from unclaimed dividends ... punters who might have had a win on the TAB but left their ticket unclaimed for six months,’’ he said.

‘‘The money belongs to the racing industry, so it seems fitting it should be put back in to the racing industry.’’

He said there is about $13 to $15 million in unclaimed dividends each year.

Echuca Harness Racing Club general manager Steve Ferguson welcomed the Premier’s visit, said the new equipment would bring the club up to a modern standard.

‘‘We hold many great meetings throughout the year and this will allow us to host larger meetings,’’ Mr Ferguson said.

He acknowledged the state government’s support and also that of major sponsors.

Echuca Harness Racing Club president Robert Height said the club was thankful the grant as it had given the club the opportunity to upgrade its tractor and mobile barrier.

‘‘Our tractor had stopped working so we desperately needed it fixed, while keeping the mobile barrier up to date is vital for safety reasons,’’ Mr Height said.

Dr Napthine said regional and rural communities drew many benefits from the race industry and commended the local club on the innovative events.

The existing tractor was replaced with a second-hand tractor, while the new six-horse-wide mobile starting gate features intercom, throttle control and overload springs.

The mobile barrier is used as a back-up for Harness Racing Victoria’s main mobile barrier, to run club trials and to help educate young horses.

The utility vehicle used for the mobile barrier takes too long to warm up, causing potentially significant delays if it is required during a race meeting.

It will be replaced with a second-hand Ford Falcon, ensuring race meetings run on schedule.

Accompanied by an entourage of MPs and parliamentary colleagues, including Member for Rodney Paul Weller, Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh, Children and Early Childhood Development Minister Wendy Lovell and Member for Northern Victoria Amanda Millar, Dr Napthine took a short tour around the club, remarking on its ‘‘impressive’’ facilities and taking time to chat with committee members about the local industry.

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