Queensland Centre of Excellence secured

The establishment of a world-class harness racing precinct in the Sunshine State is a step closer with a site secured for a new Queensland Centre of Excellence.

With harness racing’s showpiece event, the Inter Dominion Championships, poised to make its long-awaited return to Queensland next year, work will now begin on future proofing the industry through the development of a state-of-the-art racing and training precinct.

Racing Queensland will purchase more than 72 hectares near Norwell as the preferred home of the ‘Queensland Harness Centre’ and will access $8 million from the Racing Infrastructure Fund to secure the land.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Norwell is an ideal location.

“This world-class harness racing facility is expected to host more than 200 meetings a year and will include training and stabling facilities that are currently unavailable in Queensland,” the Premier said.

“Harness racing contributes to our great Queensland lifestyle and generates about $185 million for the Queensland economy every year, supporting about 1300 good, secure jobs.

“It also contributes to the magnificent Gold Coast tourism economy.”

Racing Minister Grace Grace said the Queensland Harness Centre site is 40 minutes from both the Brisbane and Gold Coast CBDs.

“The Queensland Harness Centre will have easy access to the M1 and future Coomera Connector,” Ms Grace said.

“Racing Queensland will work to ensure this is a state-of-the-art facility that is designed with animal welfare as its highest priority.

“The new homes for Queensland harness racing at Norwell and greyhound racing at Purga pave the way for the Albion Park site to become part of a key precinct for the 2032 Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

In recent years, RQ has developed a Venue Strategy, which includes the creation of a harness racing centre of excellence to cater for professional trainers and hobbyists alike, removing a key obstacle that presently prevents new participants from entering the code. 

Among the concepts to be presented to stakeholders include:

❱ State-of-the-art track designed for fast, fair racing with horse care at the forefront;

❱ Contemporary patron facilities that seamlessly connect with racing infrastructure such as raceday stabling to ensure a racing experience when on track;

❱ Stabling for more than 150 horses on-course (constructed in stages so the venue grows with usage):

❱ Consideration to cater for different trainer preferences (eg: barns or walk-in, walk-out stables);

❱ Multiple training tracks, in addition to the main racetrack, to enable flexibility and to ensure training and racing can be staged concurrently;

❱ The installation of training aids such as aqua exercise (horse swim), treadmills, and walkers; and

❱ Incorporation of modern technology to enable owners to remotely see their horse stabled and during track work.

RQ Chairman Steve Wilson AM said the creation of a Centre of Excellence was expected to retain and attract new and existing participants alike, while creating unique work/life balance opportunities.

“Given the proximity to Brisbane and the Gold Coast, the establishment of the Queensland Harness Centre at Norwell would provide harness racing participants with a unique lifestyle opportunity to reside in communities such as Sanctuary Cove and Hope Island or in the River City with the 2032 Olympics on the horizon,” Mr Wilson said.

“We will get one opportunity to do this right and that includes optimising SEQ’s sub-tropical climate for participants and patrons alike.

“As a purpose-built harness racing facility, the code will boast unprecedented opportunity to utilise the venue for training and racing purposes.

“Presently, metropolitan programming is heavily reliant on Albion Park availability, with the construction of QHC ensuring greater emphasis can be placed on maximising wagering performance and returns to participants.”

Having commissioned an independent report, which was completed by Deloitte last year, the northern Gold Coast corridor was deemed most suitable with one third of all Queensland standardbreds based locally, with a further 43% located just west of Ipswich which is easily accessed by the Logan Motorway.

Albion Park Harness Racing Club Chairman Brad Steele said the QHC was among the most significant announcements for the code in half a century.

“APHRC fully endorses an infrastructure masterplan for the Queensland harness racing code that will support sustainable growth,” Mr Steele said.

“In the process, the Queensland Harness Centre will provide long-term certainty for the club, and the industry, by delivering a once-in-a-generation asset that is industry owned.

“Importantly, the QHC will accelerate growth across all sectors of the industry and will provide an asset that builds trust and confidence for Queensland harness racing.”

Having received Treasury approval to purchase the site through the Racing Infrastructure Fund, RQ will now complete the land purchase with industry consultation commencing prior to Christmas.

Harness racing is expected to commence at the Queensland Harness Centre in 2026.

Breeders, Owners, Trainers, Reinspersons Association President Daren Garrard was among those applauding the announcement.

“The Queensland Harness Centre has the ability to transform our industry,” Mr Garrard said.

“By creating a state-of-the-art racing and training precinct, not only will today’s participants be well looked after, but it will provide an unparalleled opportunity for future trainers to join the ranks.

“By catering for all levels of the industry, including hobbyists, we can future proof our industry for generations to come.”

By Racing Queensland