East Maitland track potential new home for Hunter harness racing

Harness Racing NSW CEO John Dumesny
Harness Racing NSW CEO John Dumesny

EAST Maitland thoroughbred training track Fairhall Park could be the future home of Hunter harness racing if Newcastle International Paceway is lost to the sport.

The Herald understands Fairhall Park, on Raymond Terrace Rd, East Maitland, is a location harness racing authorities are looking at as a potential new headquarters for the code in the region. 

The Herald reported on Friday that Wests Group had guaranteed to contribute at least $10 million towards a potential $20 million rugby league centre of excellence to be built on the Broadmeadow paceway site.

The proposal has caused concern among pacing participants, who have enjoyed the top-class track and facilities at Broadmeadow since 1989. The multi-million dollar paceway is built on crown land, which Newcastle Harness Racing Club has a lease on until 2027. 

Harness Racing NSW chief John Dumesny said on Monday that his organisation “will be doing everything we can to protect and grow harness racing in the area”.

“Harness racing in the Hunter is an integral part of the whole network in NSW,” Dumesny said.

He said the industry “wouldn’t be walking away from a property where we have a lengthy lease on” and the preferred area for the Hunter’s premier track was “right at the moment, it’s where it is, at Broadmeadow”.

The Herald has reported the state government would build a new track for harness racing in or near Maitland if the Newcastle International Paceway was used for rugby league. The situation opens the door for HRNSW to add the Hunter to its list of industry-owned, redeveloped sites integrating training centres and racing tracks.

“Harness racing’s focus in the Hunter is drawn quite easily from our strategies around NSW,” Dumesny said.

The City of Maitland Society Of Aeromodellers set-up at Don Macindoe Memorial Flying Field in Fairhall Park.

The City of Maitland Society Of Aeromodellers set-up at Don Macindoe Memorial Flying Field in Fairhall Park.

“We have a track and training centre at Menangle, we have a track and soon-to-be training centre at Bathurst. We’ve got land and are about to commence construction of a track and training centre at Wagga, and likewise in Tamworth, where we’ve purchased the showground, where a training centre can be quite easily be added.”

Dumesny said there were no desire to move away from training centres at Cessnock and Maitland showgrounds. However, he said a redevelopment project similar to Tamworth at Maitland Showground was not feasible.

“Maitland is a privately-owned property and very small, so we would not be building a new track on Maitland Showground,” he said. “The GBOTA have a lease of the track and we’re not in any mind to interfere with the greyhound industry at all.

“Tamworth was a bigger property and we were able to buy it outright, it’s not flood affected and a totally different option altogether.”

Cessnock City Council is also keen to provide a site for a potential new pacing headquarters. Councillors last week supported a motion to write to the Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Scot Macdonald, and the Newcastle Harness Racing Club to set up a meeting to discuss plans. Dumesny would not comment on other potential sites, saying “we’re not at that place now”.

“There’s no need to look at anything until we need to. We are nicely situated at Newcastle,” he said.

Fairhall Park is a Maitland City Council-maintained crown land leased by the City of Maitland Society of Aeromodellers (COMSOA). Thoroughbred trainers, like Darryl Roberts, then sub-lease for use of the track.

COMSOA secretary Jason Russ said his group had been on the 100-acre site for more than 20 years and had a five-year lease. Russ said the land was flood-prone and their clubhouse had been hit by water “five-feet” high in the past.