Cessnock City Council has put its support behind a move to have greyhound racing returned to Cessnock Showground.
Councillors voted 9-3 to support a motion by Cr. Cordelia Burcham to contact Member for Cessnock Clayton Barr and ask him to make representations to Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality and Racing, George Souris, with a view to having greyhound racing reinstated at Cessnock.
An amendment moved by Cr. Rachel Main and seconded by Cr. Chris Parker that council defer making a decision and that a briefing to be held with a representative of the greyhound racing association and a representative from an animal welfare group was lost.
Cr. Burcham said she has been told that Cessnock and the wider greyhound racing community wants racing to available again at Cessnock.
“I have had numerous requests as to the possibility of re-instating greyhound racing in Cessnock.”
She said the sport has an exceptional history here and could once again be a source of employment and tourism to the Cessnock Local Government area.
Cr. Burcham said that while time has elapsed since racing was taken away from Cessnock, volunteers have kept the track in good order and still conduct trials there.
Cr. Dale Troy said the return of racing would also help pay the bills at the showground and with a new racing minister it is a good time to place the matter back on the agenda.
Cr. Chris Parker said he could not support anything that increases the cruelty to animals. The Advertiser contacted Cr. Parker after the meeting to ask him to elaborate on his comments.
He said that when he lived at Buchanan (near the twin bridges) people used to trap rabbits in the creek and he gained the impression they were used to train the greyhounds.
However he stressed that he does recognise that the majority of greyhound owners do abide by animal welfare practises.
He also added that when the matter comes back to council he will consider declaring an interest prior to debate based on personal feelings.
Cr. Rachel Main wanted the issue deferred until contact was made with greyhound racing officials and someone from an animal welfare group.
Former long-standing Cessnock Agricultural Association President and life member, Darren Witherspoon, thanked Deputy Mayor, Cordelia Burcham, the city council and Pat Groizard for getting behind the push to have racing return to the Cessnock track.
He said he has never given up hope that racing might return, adding that the track (one of the few grass circuits remaining) is in pristine condition and if the bid is successful the club could be up and racing straight away.
Mrs. Groizard, from Kearsley, and someone who has a long association with the sport has been pushing to have racing returned. She has been taking up a petition that will be presented at the appropriate time and says she has received tremendous support to get dogs back at Cessnock.