OUR SAY: Council investment must be justified

MANY people love a day at the races but some may be wondering whether Orange councillors have been a little quick to back Racing Orange to the tune of $400,000 over the next four years.

The question for councillors on Tuesday night was what were the merits of the race club’s case for being given ratepayers’ money?

True, its most popular race days attract several thousand spectators who are not regular race goers.

It is true also that racing events that coincide with festivals like the Banjo Paterson Festival this year bring something extra to the program for residents and visitors.

But it is also true that racing in NSW is a billion-dollar industry and a great many people make their livelihoods from it. 

The case for supporting sporting clubs and other recreational organisations that are non-profit and run solely for the enjoyment of participants is easier to make.

Racing Orange has pointed out that the state body, Racing NSW, has come to its aid, to the tune of $1.3 million. This is perhaps why most councillors were persuaded to also offer financial support.

In the end councillors agreed to these substantial annual grants, subject to some yet-to-be-determined milestones.

The generosity of council to the racing fraternity might sit more comfortably if there are more strings attached.

These should include some well-defined performance benchmarks, which should have been determined before the money was allocated; tying the annual payments over the next three years to continuing payments from Racing NSW’s $1.3 million allocation, and a government guarantee on the city’s equity in the Towac Park site should the race club not be viable in the long term.

The voluntary committee of Racing Orange has done a wonderful job in revitalising Towac Park over the past couple of years. With more tangible conditions, not just upon them but on the peak body, council’s generosity will sit more comfortably. 

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