Wodonga wins its cup holiday

Turf club general manager Tom O’Connor says declaring a Wodonga Gold Cup public holiday is a “defining moment” for the club. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL

Turf club general manager Tom O’Connor says declaring a Wodonga Gold Cup public holiday is a “defining moment” for the club. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL

WODONGA and District Turf Club has won its bid to have a public holiday declared for the Wodonga Gold Cup from this year.

Wodonga Council last night voted in favour of moving the Melbourne Cup Day public holiday to Friday, November 28.

All that remains is the state government tick of approval, expected to be a mere formality.

Turf club general manager Tom O’Connor said it was a “defining moment for the club, and for Wodonga”, as it moves to make the Gold Cup a premier racing event.

“It’s great news ... and we see it as a game-changer for us,” he said.

The motion approved last night provides two further dates for the public holiday, in line with Racing Victoria’s agreement to hold the cup on a Friday over the next three years: November 27, 2015, and November 25, 2016.

Cr Anna Speedie was the only councillor to argue against the motion, failing to see how it would attract more people — beyond a few more from the local area — if no other cities shared the holiday.

She raised concerns that business would suffer with people taking both the Wodonga and Melbourne Cup days off, as well as the demographics of who would attend given Wodonga’s population of primarily young families.

She added many people used Melbourne Cup Day, and the makeshift long weekend, as a chance to catch up with family and friends statewide.

“If we change that for Wodonga, we change it for everybody,” she said.

Mr O’Connor said public consultation showed support for the public holiday from Wodonga residents and businesses, and people outside the area.

“We don’t see it (changing the date from a Sunday) as a barrier for the club and we look forward to the challenge of growing the event,” he said.

After the motion was approved, Cr Speedie argued against its introduction this year.

She said once the government approved the council’s request, it could leave less than three months’ notice for people and businesses to change their schedules.

“I think it is fair to say government process isn’t swift,” she said.

“It would be inappropriate and foolhardy to push this onto businesses and the community in such a short timeframe.”

On this point she had Cr Michael Fraser’s support, but they were outvoted.

A survey conducted by the club showed 62 per cent of respondents were in favour of introducing the holiday this year.

Cr Mark Byatt said the council had to place some faith in the turf club and Racing Victoria: “They’ve thought this through ... I don’t think they would put 2014 forward if they didn’t think most of the community would support it.”