Macedon Ranges councillors faced the wrath of horse enthusiasts last Wednesday when they withdrew support for a controversial $40million equine centre in the east of the shire.
Supporters of the equine centre plan packed the council chambers last Wednesday, having arrived in a convoy of floats loaded with horses.
Councillors shelved the long-standing proposal, which has split community opinion over recent years, despite once adopting it as the central plank of its own equine strategy.
Their backflip drew boos from supporters, while councillor Roger Jukes, the only councillor supportive of the plan, lodged his intent to have the decision overturned at a special meeting next Wednesday, March 8.
Macedon Ranges Residents Association secretary Christine Pruneau said there had been widespread opposition to the equine centre proposal.
“This is something that has gone out of all proportion to everything else,” Ms Pruneau said. “It’s been sucking the resources, the focus and the priorities of council at the cost of other things.”
But Ranges Equine Industry Network spokeswoman Tracy Robertson said the council’s decision buried five years of work.
“This is a plan to bury the project altogether – regardless of the fact the centre will provide and create local jobs,” Ms Robertson said. “This action by council shows a marked disrespect for the hard work and dedication shown by the Macedon Ranges community, which freely gave its time and resources to ensure the project has gone from strength to strength.”
The equine strategy expired last year, and on Wednesday councillors voted to no longer use it to guide its investment decisions. It also withdrew $25,000 already set aside in its budget to prepare a specific business case.
The equine network had secured another $16,000 to add to state funding for its case, but it is not known what will happen to these monies.
Cr Jukes said the consequences of council’s withdrawal needed more debate.
“I’ve got a tough road ahead of me to explain to the councillors the ramifications of their decision,” Cr Jukes told
“If [new councillors] don’t fully understand what a decision like this will mean, then they should not be voting in support of it.
“I think that there are some ideas that have been put forward in the media by certain groups that council would be subjecting ratepayers to millions in extra costs to go towards this project … that is just simply not the case.”
But new councillor Mandi Mees cast doubts on the benefits of the plan at the meeting.
“I’m yet to be convinced that it is a world-class equine centre that we need here … grassroots assets that we all can use is what we need.”