Posted 13/4/15


Cr. John Letchford's email response to MRRA's 2/4/15 submission on Council's Equine Centre Feasibility Study

sent to MRRA the day after the Association's submission was forwarded to Macedon Ranges Council, all Councillors and Mary-Anne Thomas MLA. 



Comments in blue below are Cr. Letchford's, as are 'notes' in red following.  

The Councillor's reference to HRAG is a reference to the Hanging Rock Action Group.


RE: MRRA Submission: Equine Centre Consultation

From: Cr John Letchford
Friday, April 03, 2015 9:16 PM
To: ; Macedon Ranges Shire Council
Cr Graham Hackett ; Cr Jennifer Anderson ; Cr John Connor ; Cr Roger Jukes ; Cr Russell Mowatt ; Cr Sally Piper ; Cr Ian Ellis ; Cr Henry McLaughlin ; Mary-Anne Thomas
RE: MRRA Submission: Equine Centre Consultation


MRRA members and to the Secretary Christine Pruneau –


Thank you for your submission on the Equine Feasibility Study.


I note that you have provided no solutions, again. to a growth industry nor providing any recognition that this activity has a vibrant community support.  Not to be a prune, either ripe or shrivelled up, on this issue there needs to be some positives coming from MRRA.  At present there is, in my opinion,  nothing but the word ‘no’ coming from MRRA or alternatively character assignations [sic] which MRRA is big on  … so one day I hope that in the spirit of good governance (the catch cry of some but rarely applied) is worked at to produce something that is more positive.


I do however take note of some of your submission only some has some relevance as the remainder really needs to be some more emphasis in MRRA to be a little more positive and deal with the REAL FACTS not fantasy.


In response I have indicated where MRRA can be more honest in its intent… the whole submission should be seen for the bias that it has as well as the lack of fundamental understanding of this proposal – this is unfortunate as I was looking for a more in-depth submission from MRRA rather than something that has been cobbled together and called a submission.


Please feel free to chat anytime.


MRRA Note:

Here is the opening paragraph of MRRA's submission, which is omitted from Cr. Letchford's email response:


"Macedon Ranges Residents’ Association Inc has read the Draft Macedon Ranges Equine Centre Feasibility Study carefully, and has posted a detailed analysis of the Study and proposal on its website [link to this web page].   Here we provide an overview of key concerns which include:"



a)     Failure To Openly Disclose The True Nature Of The Proposal this is not correct and this is corrupted opinion

Council has not been open or honest about the predominantly non-equine nature of the proposal, or the potential for privately-owned enterprises in it.  This isn’t an equine centre.  Horses are incidental to the main purpose of a large commercial (and potentially residential/accommodation) development, presumably on rural land, that is on the scale of a new town.  The proposed 300 – 400 acre site seems excessive, and what all of this land would be used for isn’t disclosed.  We submit that if each of the many proposed commercial components – e.g. conference centre, concert stadium, sales ring, retail, accommodation etc. etc. was applied for individually, they wouldn’t be able to be justified. (pity that MRRA does not get the whole concept)


b)    Costs And Financials Just Don’t Add Up   = refer above again not sure who your bean counter is but better get a new abacus

The Study fails to provide reliable, credible or complete information on what is proposed, and contains unexplained and inexcusable discrepancies (throw away reminiscent of HRAG material ) which paint a confusing and falsely rosy picture of the project.  This gives an impression of costs and financials being manipulated to produce manufactured outcomes.  Examples include:


�.       The Study doesn't explain why minimalist Option 1 costs only $1M less than the all-frills Option 4, or why almost-minimalist Option 3 costs $10 million less than minimalist Option 1, or why the almost-all-frills recommended Option 2 is $9M less than all-frills Option 4, and $8M less than minimalist Option 1. 


�.       Facilities the options are said to include, those included in capital costs, and those used in the financial analysis don’t match.   Options are costed for facilities they don’t have, or not costed for facilities they do, or costs are not included in the financial analysis.   Options also receive revenue from facilities/venues that are not included in capital costs.  Option 2 in particular is credited with facilities that don’t match costed facilities and neither of those match facilities used to generate revenue in that option’s financial analysis. 


�.       The recommended Option 2 has two total capital costs, with the lesser amount ($31.2 million) used in the financial analysis.  This produces a $2.5 million surplus, but Option 2’s other (higher) total capital cost ($37.2 million) produces only a $900,000 surplus.  The difference between Option 2’s two capital costs is exactly the cost for Administration office, which seems to have been left out of the capital cost figure used in the financial analysis.


�.       Option 3 capital cost doesn’t include costs for Accommodation (150 camping sites - $7.9 million) but that option receives income in the financial analysis from 150 accommodation sites.


�.       Findon Pony Club and Oaklands Hunt Club are included in the financial analysis as “pony and adult riding clubs” in Macedon Ranges Shire when neither are.  Their inclusion inflates community usage figures.


�.       The basis used to produce construction economic and employment impacts needs clarification.  A basis isn’t provided for economic and employment impacts of the centre itself.   Both must be explained and justified.


c)     Costs In The Study Are Only The Tip Of The Financial Iceberg not sure if the MRRA are reading from the same page or are just grasping for another by-line

�.       The Study’s capital costs and financial analysis relate only to Phase 1 of the proposal, and not even all Phase 1 facilities are costed (this is particularly evident with Option 2)


�.       Phase 2 facilities aren’t included in capital costs or the financial analysis.


�.       Extending/upgrading essential services to the centre, and purchase/lease of land, are not costed. 


�.       The expense of further work and studies to take this proposal forward are not costed.


d)    The Proposal Disadvantages (Doesn’t Benefit) The Local Community so full of opinion than fact which is unfortunate as this is more of a fictional read than reality from the MRRA … once again this is to be discarded

This proposal is about advantaging private business interests (at ratepayers’ expense) rather than doing the right thing by kids with a pony.  Benefits flow to local commercial equine interests rather than local community interests.   Providing a community equine facility (costed at  $1.5 million) is said to be a priority of this project, but the recommended option doesn’t have one (despite the Study showing one on plans at pages 46/47).   The Study also advises that locals think Werribee Park is too expensive yet rumours are that this centre is about the self-funded private organisation, Werribee Park National Equine Centre, moving to Macedon Ranges which, if true, would again price locals out of it. 


The Study admits the centre is also a risk in terms of local impacts:  traffic and congestion (over half a million spectators/participants annually is included in financial analysis), reduced amenity for local residents, emissions pollution, and taking business away from existing traders and tourism operators in other parts of the Shire. 


e)     Other Consequences once again based on faulty opinions that have no factual basis

This large commercial centre in the ‘south-east of the shire’ will place it in the sensitive ‘buffer’ with the metropolitan area, which the Macedon Ranges Planning Scheme says should be kept rural and protected from development.  It will also require very expensive extension/upgrade of infrastructure and services, which is not costed but will need to be paid for.  Such extension would also benefit those desiring residential development at Clarkefield, which currently does not have services that support growth and development.  Growth at Clarkefield would be additional to growth already identified in the Shire’s Settlement Strategy.


f)     Poor Standards of Community Consultation now this one is rich with the usual nonsense that MRRA IS RENOWNED FOR especially on the back of media that the MRRA puts . and has put out on this topice.

Council has again demonstrated it doesn’t seem to know how to openly and inclusively consult, and prefers to avoid informed or unfavourable comment.  The survey not only requires names before participation, it asks for responses on issues where the necessary information hasn’t been made clear or even available.  All Macedon Ranges’ residents should have been asked if they wanted this proposal before any expenditure of ratepayers’ money on it.


Conclusion – once again there is no conclusion as this is based upon factually incorrect information.  There is no real research or real facts to this conclusion and should be disregarded.

What relationship does mentoring and funding this commercial proposal have with the functions of a Council, and why has any ratepayers’ money been used to pursue it?   Part 1A of the Local Government Act does not endorse a Council acting as a speculator, financier or entrepreneur, or taking substantial (known) financial risks with ratepayers’ money.   What Part 1A does require is Best Value, acting in the community’s best interests, responsible governance, transparency and accountability, and achieving the best outcomes for the local community having regard to the long term and cumulative effects of decisions


The Feasibility Study appears (interesting admission here as to actual belief either it is or it is not so the soft line has been taken) to be inaccurate, incomplete and biased in favour of its proponent, and cannot be considered an acceptable or proper basis for decision-making.  This commercial development proposal is not about horses, or the local community, or need. (full of opinion and not factually based)   It has high potential for financial, amenity and other detriment for local community and businesses, without compensating benefits.   It is admitted as being a significant financial risk (even before the Study’s inexplicable discrepancies in costs and financial analysis are considered), and is a ticking financial time bomb for ratepayers in terms of long-term costs and financial disadvantage.  (again faulty information and unknown sources)


The Association cannot with conscience support this development, or Council spending another cent of ratepayers’ money on it.   We believe Council would be seriously abrogating its responsibilities under the Local Government Act – and to its ratepayers – if it moved this flawed project forward based on this flawed Study.  Serious concerns are also held that such a Study is aimed at influencing State government into funding this development.  (factually flawed and highly opinionated – no source of information or quote – poorly worded and poor syntax uses )



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