By ALLISON HORE
Lord Mayor Clover Moore is backing calls for greyhound racing to end at Wentworth Park in Sydney’s inner city. On Monday night the City of Sydney council voted eight to two in favour of a motion proposed by independent councillor Philip Thalis to “return Wentworth Park to the public”.
Mr. Thalis told the ABC on Wednesday that the fact the space was only accessible to a “diminishing” number of people a few nights a week was not good enough.
“It’s much more important to open 24 hours to the public. We’re in the middle of the high density areas of Ultimo, Pyrmont and Glebe and we need more space,” he said.
“We know that under COVID people are using their public space. They need to take exercise, they need that relief of being in green spaces. Wentworth park could be so much better.”
The Greyhound Owners Breeders and Trainers Association (GBOTA) has been the primary tenant of Wentworth Park since the 1980s, but Ms. Moore agrees it’s time the space was opened up for the public.
“It doesn’t seem right that so much of Wentworth Park, which sits in the middle of one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in Australia, is dominated by a greyhound racing track,” Ms. Moore shared to social media on Tuesday.
“This space should be in the hands of the community, not an industry that has admitted to killing up to 17,000 healthy dogs each year, has been shown to live-bait, and causes problem gamblers real suffering.”
Mr. Thalis said that the move to reclaim Wentworth Park would be a “win win” situation with “more public space for all to enjoy at Wentworth Park” and “progressive winding back of rapacious greyhound industry”.
Greyhound racing has a controversial presence in the Australian sports landscape. Australia is one of only 8 countries in the world that allows greyhound racing and Wentworth park is just one of the 65 recognised racing venues across the country. Every year, punters gamble four billion dollars on the results.
After ABC’s Four Corners’ 2015 episode, “Making a Killing” revealed horrific practices in the greyhound racing industry the entire board of directors of Greyhounds NSW was dismissed and a special commission into the industry was set up by the NSW government.
The commission found that of the 97,000 greyhounds bred in the last 12 years, between 48,891 and 68,448 dogs were killed and that 10-20% of trainers were involved in live baiting. The commission concluded that the industry was “not capable of reform in the short to medium term”.
Following the investigation then premier Mike Baird moved to ban greyhound racing in NSW, which Mr. Thalis told the ABC is the “best decision Baird made”. However, after lobbying from racing and gmbling bodies, a few months later the decision was backtracked.
Meanwhile, racing bodies are gearing up to host what they call “World’s Richest Greyhound Race” which will be hosted in Wentworth Park in October . In response to ongoing animal welfare concerns surrounding the sport, Greyhound Racing NSW say that “100% of all entry fees paid by owners and trainers” will go towards the Greyhound As Pets (GAP) NSW program, which rehomes retired and relinquished greyhounds.
In response to Ms. Moore’s statement, Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) boss Tony Mestrov said that “GRNSW absolutely rejects the Lord Mayor’s assertions about the welfare and integrity of our participants”. He said the group still have seven years remaining on their lease agreement with the NSW Government.
“The GBOTA has a contract to conduct greyhound racing at Wentworth Park until 2027 under Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) rules of racing, and GRNSW would welcome any further discussion with the NSW Government and all stakeholders that takes this into account,” he said.
Ms. Moore will be writing to the NSW Government Ministers for Better Regulation, Property and Public Space to advocate for the council’s position.