Plans in place to sell Moree racecourse precinct for coal seam gas mining
THE Moree community is bracing for white-hot debate after it was revealed today that the local racecourse precinct will be sold to an international mining consortium that will use the site for coal seam gas extraction.
The sale includes the 2000m racetrack and 600m coursing track as well as all buildings and infrastructure.
There is also a move to purchase nearby Webb Oval.
It is a proposal that is expected to ignite outrage across the community however pundits say it will go ahead if pro-CSG lobbyists can deflect an anticipated barrage of public outcry.
Moree Race Club president Rob Mather says the plan to construct a coal seam gas fracking plant smack-bank in the middle of Moree will bring millions of dollars to the region.
And the “sweetener”, he says, is too big to ignore.
As part of the deal, a new multi-million dollar racetrack with state-of-the-art facilities will be constructed five kilometres south of Moree.
The complex will include a 500-seat conference centre and theatre as well as a massive horse-sports arena and greyhound coursing track.
Racing and greyhound stakeholders will not need to vacate the current site until the new venue is operational, which is scheduled for mid- to late-2019.
The consortium, headed up by Chinese mining company Hu Shuo Resources, will cover the cost of the new facility as part of a trade-off with the Moree Racecourse Trust, Moree Race Club and Moree Greyhound Racing Club.
One-off payments to all three entities – rumoured to be worth tens of millions of dollars – are part of the deal as well as annual royalty payments once the controversial plant begins production.
“This is the offer that has been put on the table, and we are seriously looking at it – the long-term benefits to the Moree shire are enormous,” Mr Mather said.
“I fully realise that there will be plenty of hostility and backlash, especially from the Green movement, anti-CSG lobbyists and certain stakeholders, but the reality is that this development could create hundreds of jobs and make Moree the thoroughbred racing capital of rural Australia.
“I simply cannot be any clearer on this issue – the Moree Race Club agrees in-principle with the proposal and will fight tooth and nail to see it realised, despite the likely protestations from various groups and individuals,” Mr Mather said.
Moree Greyhound Racing Club president Gary Moore agrees.
“This could really put Moree on the map as a greyhound racing centre,” Mr Moore said.
“I’ve looked at preliminary blueprints of the proposed complex and there is room for us to race every second weekend. The gallopers can have the alternate weekends and there is the possibility of both codes racing on weekdays as well. There is even the distinct possibility of conducting dual-code meetings – greyhounds and gallopers on the same day.
“The deal that has been offered to us means that both codes will be in a position to offer city-class prize money at a city-class venue, but in rural NSW – everyone will want to race at Moree, whether it is greyhounds or gallopers.
Drill tests conducted over the past six months reveal that there are vast deposits of coal seam gas directly below Moree.
The gas reserve, less than 500m below ground level in some areas, comprises a three-kilometre radius from the centre of the racecourse and Webb Oval precinct.
And it this reason, says Hu Shuo Resources’ CEO Tao Jiang Hu that makes the racecourse the logical site for such a bold, if not bizarre, project.
Mr Hu said in a media statement overnight that the racecourse precinct “ticks all the boxes”.
“The township of Moree is sitting on a veritable gold mine, only this is coal seam gas, not gold and definitely not artesian water – and there is a lot of it,” Mr Hu said.
“Our company needs just the right location to extract this gas, which we believe is one of the biggest reserves in Australia, and the Moree racecourse is ideal for us to achieve that – it ticks all the boxes.
“The site is virtually right in the middle of the township, which means our staff can reside close by and make full use of everything Moree has to offer.
“We will also have connection with all local services and utilities as well as freight services,” Mr Hu said.
“There is also easy highway access via the Moree bypass and one of our long-term plans is to construct a railway siding nearby to access the Inland Rail Project once it is operational,” he said.
Mr Hu said that Hu Shuo Resources was also considering making an offer for nearby Webb Oval, which has been decommissioned as a sports playing field.
“Webb Oval and much of the in-field of the racecourse will be perfect sites for holding ponds and evaporation ponds,” Mr Hu said.
“We are also interested in private land opposite the racecourse precinct on the eastern side of the Newell Highway bypass.
“This is one of the biggest reserves of coal seam gas in Australia, and it is right under Moree,” he said.
A community forum will be held – the first of what is expected to be many – to give stakeholders and members of the public a platform to debate the proposal.
While the venue is expected to be the Moree racecourse, a date for the first community forum has not been fixed.
Meanwhile, Moree Race Club’s next meeting will be the huge family Easter race-day on Easter Saturday, April 15.
The meeting features a kids-only Fashions on the Field competition, sponsored by MAAC, Wise Words Bookshop, La Maison Rose and Robin’s Nest.
The Easter bunny will make time during his busy schedule to drop in for a visit and there will also be a jumping castle on-course.
The five-race card, sponsored by KMH Electrical, New Bo Wa Restaurant, Williams Stock and Property, Local Appliance Rentals and LJ Hooker Moree, comprises two maiden plates over 950m and 1300m as well as a 1200m class 3 handicap, 1600m BM-55 handicap and a 950m BM-55 handicap.
Nominations close at 11am, Monday April 10 with acceptances declared at 9am, Thursday April 13.
For more information, contact race club secretary Michelle Gobbert on 0428 644581.
Article update at midday, April 1:
No need to panic!
The Chinese term Hu Shuo as in “Hu Shuo” Resources loosely translates in English to “bullshit” and the name of the company’s CEO “Tao Jiang Hu” translates to “shit-stirrer”.
Don’t forget it is April Fools’ Day and this article sure beats another abominable snowman or yeti sighting.