Darwin Turf Club will not have to pay back a $12 million grant used in the construction of its controversial grandstand, instead, the NT government will divert $6m away from it and to provincial venues instead.
Racing Minister Chansey Paech said a new proposed funding model put to Thoroughbred Racing NT will allocate $17.88m over the next decade, on the condition that $6m would be spent on infrastructure at regional race tracks in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine and Adelaide River.
Alice Springs Turf Club will get $150,000 a year for the first four years to upgrade infrastructure, increasing to $400,000 per year for the remaining six years. Funding to Katherine, Tennant Creek and Adelaide River turf clubs will be increased to $50,000 per year for the first four years, increasing to $133,000 for the last six years.
“I’ve been acutely aware [that], at some point, I have to draw a line in the sand over the ongoing issues when it comes to Darwin Turf Club,” the minister said.
It is effectively punishing the Darwin Turf Club over the controversial grandstand, as the club relies on public funding to remain viable. DTC chairman Richard O’Sullivan said the racing industry generated more than $122m for the Territory every year but the new funding arrangement would have a serious impact on the club from a financial and health and safety perspective.
An NT Government statement said the new funding agreement would “support the racing industry across the NT for the next 10 years” and would bring the funding “in line with other NT Government grants”.
“In light of this agreement, previous directions to repay a $12 million grant awarded to the Darwin Turf Club for the construction of a grandstand in 2019 will no longer apply,” the statement said.
“While the overall baseline funding amount remains the same [for TRNT], this new agreement will specifically direct Thoroughbred Racing NT to reduce its payments to the Darwin Turf Club by $6 million over  years, and reinvest that amount into infrastructure upgrades at regional turf clubs,” the statement said.
“Racing is a major drawcard in our regional areas and improved infrastructure at these tracks will make a huge difference to these clubs and communities. This agreement is about providing opportunities for the Northern Territory government, Thoroughbred Racing NT and the Darwin Turf Club to all move forward together in the right direction.”
The NT government had been calling on the turf club to repay the $12m Labor Cabinet approved to build the new grandstand in 2019. That contract was awarded to then club chair Brett Dixon’s company, Jaytex Construction, which was later the subject of an ICAC investigation.
Mr Dixon’s case returns to court this month where he will seek a declaration that the former ICAC Commissioner Ken Fleming QC did “knowingly breach” his own Act in a bid to “embarrass” Mr Dixon.