Scores of Melbourne residents are seething after Racing Victoria CEO Andrew Jones publicly defended the decision to flood-protect Flemington Racecourse. It has resulted in high volumes of water dangerously shifting from the iconic track towards the homes of locals in neighbouring properties near the Maribyrnong River.
In recent days, heavy rainfall has lashed Victoria and on Saturday morning a man, 71, was found dead in his backyard at Rochester, in rural Victoria. Back in 2007, flood walls were controversially built to protect the home of the Melbourne Cup.
‘The VRC took steps to flood-protect its property 15 years ago, which it is entitled to do (and) that’s obviously had unintended consequences for neighbouring residents. ‘Obviously there was no intention of the VRC to cause harm.
They tried to protect the spring carnival and the Melbourne Cup carnival, which is a massively important part of Victorian life and the Victorian economy, so I think this is an unintended consequence.’
With many people at risk of losing their homes or facing a hefty clean up bill, Jones has come under fire for his out of touch comments. ‘It’s a difficult situation,’ he told Nine’s Today Show on Saturday morning.
Jones went onto state there were ‘no big fears for big meetings’ during the spring carnival, including Saturday’s Group One Caulfield Cup. ‘Racing Victoria has invested very heavily alongside clubs for a number of years to make sure that the drainage at our tracks is as good as possible,’ he said.
In 2004, despite objections from residents and three local councils, the then-Labor government approved a rock wall to protect the Flemington racecourse from flooding. Local resident and historian Liz Crash said the area near the racecourse had always been a floodplain. ‘This has always been a huge concern for the community,’ Ms Crash told the ABC.
‘We are in reasonably good shape and don’t expect any washed out race meetings.’ Jones’ views attracted an avalanche of criticism on social media. Plenty took to Twitter to voice their outrage of ‘prioritising a racecourse over homes.’