Community concerns addressed in final Belfast Reserve plan

The Belfast Coastal Research Management Plan strikes a welcome balance between conservation, recreation and commercial horse training on beaches between Warrnambool and Port Fairy, says Western Victoria MP James Purcell.

The plan restricts horse training to Levys Beach and Hoon Hill and creates a Conservation Zone with funding to protect and monitor birdlife in the area.

"Very early on I presented a proposal for horse training that nominated Levys Beach as the best option for horse training,” Mr Purcell said.

“I'm pleased our calls for community consultation were heard and that the plan incorporates community feedback and allows access for small family horse trainers, recreational horse riders and dog owners.

“This plan addresses conservation and community concerns and allows for fair use of the reserve.”

The plan has been in development since 2016, with elements of the draft plan (released earlier this year) rejected by the community. Mr Purcell said the draft plan too restrictive and hadn't had enough stakeholder input to make the conditions acceptable to the community.

"Now we have a plan that each group can get behind. I think this is a great outcome for the area," he said.

Warrnambool Racing Club will continue to manage commercial training licenses for beach access between first light and 11am on weekdays. Levys Beach and Hoon Hill will be the only places in the reserve for commercial horse training, with a maximum of 120 horses per day on the foreshore at Levys Beach and 40 horses per day in the dune at Hoon Hill.

 "There are careful horse training licence conditions that will limit the numbers of horses and the possible conflicts with beach nesting birds," said Mr Purcell.

Information sessions on the plan will be held at Port Fairy on 21st August and at Warrnambool on 22nd August.