Events like the Mackay Derby Day have helped the greater Mackay region contribute around $18 million to the economy according to Racing Queensland.
Events like the Mackay Derby Day have helped the greater Mackay region contribute around $18 million to the economy according to Racing Queensland.

Unlikely industry contributing $18m to our economy

WHEN the mining boom died Mackay faltered and, for a little bit, so did the racing industry.

That was how horse trainer Trinity Bannon felt in Mackay’s dark times. Now the racing industry is beginning to return to strength.

Bannon, who has been a jockey as well as a trainer in the Mackay region, said the success of her business had a flow-on effect on the whole community.

Racing Queensland data shows the industry’s annual contribution to the Mackay economy exceeded $18 million.

Across the greater Mackay region, which takes in seven clubs from Bowen to Middlemount and Twin Hills, the racing industry was responsible for generating $18.5 million in value added to the local economy in the 2017-18 financial year, while sustaining 160 full-time jobs.

Mackay Turf Club spokeswoman Kim Tower said the Ooralea track alone put more than $3 million back into the Mackay economy annually.

“When we host a feature race day here in Mackay such as the Mackay Cup, with more than 4000 guests in attendance including trainers, owners, jockeys and travelling visitors, Mackay city in general benefits; all accommodation, restaurants, retail outlets, pubs and clubs all experiencing plenty of racegoers at their venues before, during and after the race day,” she said.

The turf club had experienced a significant increase in interest and feature races were attracting almost double the crowds as previous years, Ms Tower said.

“The race days have become very popular, with an increase in tickets sales of over 50 per cent, corporate sponsorships up 300 per cent and memberships up over 60 per cent, which is a very positive sign.”

Racing Queensland has commissioned data outlining the size and scope of the state’s $1.5 billion racing industry.

With more than 1400 industry participants in the greater Mackay region, the thoroughbred code contributed $16.8 million, while greyhounds ($1.3 million) and harness racing ($600,000) also played a part.

The data shows race meets in the region attracted about 24,000 people trackside in the past financial year.

Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the Queensland racing industry played a significant role in the social and economic fabric of the state.

“Across Mackay and the Whitsundays, there are 1435 participants who are directly involved — many of them running their own small businesses which contribute significantly to the state’s economy — and who derive great joy and pleasure from their roles within the industry,” he said.

“With 230 races conducted across the region each year, almost 24,000 attendees, 761 owners and 523 club members are able to experience the thrill of racing.”

Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said the racing industry was once a great contributer to the economy but it had been lacklustre in more recent times.

“Racing has changed significantly over past 20-30 years, now we have only half a dozen meetings a year. While it’s great, it’s not contributing to the community like it should, like it used to,” he said.

“It has huge potential, to contribute to regional community, but does not get the opportunity because of the limited racing opportunity.

“I am not across the reasons why it all went pear shaped for Queensland racing, but it’s an example of an industry sector focused on south-east Queensland.”

The Palaszczuk Government recently invested heavily in regional Queensland through a four-year, $70.4 million Country Racing Support Package.

Bowen Turf Club received $10,000 for an electrical upgrade to its amenities and a further $1500 to support an animal welfare imitative.

The industry also supplied 7852 volunteers, with 288 of those helping clubs and participants across Mackay and the Whitsundays.

“We continue to look for new ways to innovate including the introduction of the highly successful Northern Crowns series, along with the TAB Battle of the Bush,” Racing Queensland chairman Steve Wilson said.

“The victory of Mason’s Chance in the inaugural $100,000 Battle of the Bush final demonstrated everything that is great about racing in the Sunshine State, with the Mackay gelding winning in the final stride for Olivia Cairns and his connections at Doomben on a Group 1 race day.”

Mackay trainer Bannon said the income her business generated ebbed and flowed through the community.

“I’m paid by horse owners … they pay for their horses to get worked on a monthly rate,” she said.

“I divvy that up between feed, supplements, track fees, staff wages, and whatever is left pays my living expenses.”

Bannon said most of her profit went towards the horses, which itself gave work to businesses in the greater Mackay region.

She supports local retailer SF Produce, which is owned by Josh Manzelmann, a fellow trainer.

“Even though everyone is competition in the industry I think we all need to support each other as well,” she said.