Gloucester Park case rolling on

THE East Perth Redevelopment Authority is not the only group in WA with designs on the assets of the WA Trotting Association.

For the past three years, the association has been fighting a legal action worth almost $20 million, around half the estimated value of WATA’s home, Gloucester Park, which the WA Government wants to include in its plans to redevelop the Perth CBD’s eastern gateway.

“There was a very clear indication at the Annual General Meeting (held in November last year) that the membership didn’t want Gloucester Park sold.”

- Gary Scott

The multi-million dollar legal case against the harness racing group in the WA Supreme Court has been driven by a Perth television production company aggrieved over its loss of a contract to make a Friday night trotting and entertainment show.

The legal action is being taken by Media Arts Group Pty Ltd and its director Gordon Inglis against the association and community broad-caster Channel 31.

Mr Inglis has accused both Access 31 and the WATA of engaging in unconscionable conduct contrary to sections of the Trade Practices Act, defamation and conspiracy to cause economic harm after the WATA pulled the plug on his program That’s Entertainment.

He said the case was heading toward trial in the Supreme Court, possibly later this year, though mediation by consent was being sought by the parties involved.

Channel 31 managing director Andrew Bruin said the station was staunchly defending the case but was willing to reach mediation.

“We can to try to mediate but we are waiting to hear back from the other parties,” Mr Bruin said.

“We are rigorously defending the action. We believe there is no basis for the claims,” Mr Bruin said.

WATA president Gary Scott said he could not comment directly on the case without seeking legal advise.

“It’s a legal process that has been taking place and I’m not willing to make any comment on it at this stage,” he said.

However, Mr Scott reiterated the Association’s current position that it would not consider selling the park to the Government, for the Eastern Perth Gateway Plan that was unveiled earlier this week.

He said any sale would depend on the wishes of the 2,000 association members, who appeared to be against any sale proposal.

“There was a very clear indication at the annual general meeting (held in November last year) that the membership didn’t want Gloucester Park sold,” Mr Scott said.

Instead, the association’s committee is commissioning a feasibility study into the development of several hectares of excess land surrounding the park while maintaining the harness racing course.

The decision to remain in East Perth is at odds with the association’s commitment made last year by the then president Bob Fowler, who told WA Business News that moving the WATA headquarters and joining the WA Turf Club’s Belmont Park facilities was inevitable at some point.

However, Mr Scott said that such a move would be economically unfeasible.

In May, the Government announced an overhaul of the governance structure of the racing industry that includes the establishment of a new body called Racing and Wagering Western Australia.

It unveilled plans to introduce a single self-funded controlling body for all three WA codes, the WA Turf Club, the WA Trotting Association and the WA Greyhound Racing Authority following a review of the racing industry chaired by Ray Turner.

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