Healesville Racing Club forced to abandon race meet due to storm damage

Healesville Racing Club's bar veranda was destroyed by a fallen trees. PICTURES: CHRIS YOUNG

By Renee Wood

Healesville Amateur Racing Club has made the tough decision to abandon its Saturday 20 November race meet due to the damage caused to the facility during last week’s storms.

Some 11 trees fell at the property, including a 90 year old oak tree, with the most significant damaged caused to the Ray Hart Pavilion.

Sadly the Pavilion, the club’s newest and grandest building, will need to be demolished due to several trees falling on the structure.

The female jockey room, course entry box and bar veranda were all damaged by fallen trees, as well as trees down across the track and plastic running rail.

Secretary Chris Young said following the assessment of the damage, the club felt it was best to cancel the upcoming event.

“It was a hard decision but in the end we just didn’t have enough time, particularly with the long Melbourne Cup weekend in the middle,” Mr Young said.

Woods Environmental, a local tree removal contractor, has already started chopping up and removing fallen timber and mulch off site.

Works will also be needed on getting larger trees removed, demolishing and making buildings safe.

“A fair bit of demolition is required to get to all the trees removed and sadly the Ray Hart Pavilion will need to be totally demolished and rebuilt – Ray Hart is a very important member of the HARC committee and basically designed and built the pavilion by himself.”

The club is still hopeful the pre-Christmas meeting for 11 December will still go ahead and the team is continuing to take bookings for marquees and general entry.

“By not running on November 20 it gives us that extra time to get the course in shape to be able to definitely run the December 11 meet.”

Clearing works are expected to finish by Tuesday next week and it’s hoped insurance will help to cover the costs for the not-for-profit.

“We already have some quotes in to at least demolish and make the grounds safe to get the last two trees off the buildings.

“We have builders quoting the rebuild already and CRV are going out of the way to help us. We have already commenced a plan to get the areas and buildings we need to use, with possibly a temporary building for the female jockey’s room.”

Thankfully the main bar area was spared with two trees falling each side and there are still a lot of trees standing in the main areas.

The racing club is not alone in the wake of the destruction caused by the storms, as many businesses and homes still continue to assess the damage and respond to the clean up.

The Victoria SES has reported it has marked the busiest period in its history due to the June and October storms.

Volunteers responded to more than 7000 fallen trees, over 2,000 building damage reports and around 200 calls for flooding between Thursday 29 October and Thursday 4 November.

“It’s been an incredibly busy few days for our VICSES volunteers responding to this significant storm event, especially with the large number of calls for help coming through daily,” VICSES Chief Officer, Operations, Tim Wiebusch said.

“I’m really proud of the work our VICSES volunteers have undertaken and continue to do to assist so many community members with great support from our partner agencies”.

“To have some additional capacity from NSW SES to complement our crews, was an incredible asset for our response to this event. It gave our volunteers some respite, but also the ability to clear the backlog of requests for assistance as quickly as we did.”

CFA, Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVIC) and council staff and contractors all supported the calls for assistance.