Queensland Declares EI Natural Disaster

The Queensland racing industry is in ruin, so Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has declared the horse flu crisis a "natural disaster."

The Queensland racing industry is in ruin, so Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has declared the horse flu crisis a "natural disaster."

She is so concerned for those in the industry that she has placed the state’s Disaster Management Group in charge of handling the outbreak and announced an emergency relief package for people directly employed in the racing industry. This is in addition to funding the federal government is giving. It now has added further pressure on the New South Wales state government to do the same, but still it refuses to help the ailing Thoroughbred workers in NSW.

With racing in Brisbane canceled until February, the Queensland government's relief package “includes a small business interest subsidy scheme for those who can't meet financial commitments because of the crisis.”

State cabinet will determine the criteria for the scheme when it meets Oct. 1. Bligh estimated it would provide about $8 million in aid.

The Australian Bankers Association will also offer short-term relief “for those who can't meet mortgage and loan repayments.” Bligh noted that the funds were not capped, as the package was designed “to assist people as the crisis unfolded.”

Meanwhile, a very small positive glimmer of hope for the embattled industry in Queensland came from David Chester, the chief executive officer of the Queensland-based Magic Millions sales company.

Chester said, "Australia's number one breeze-up style sale – the Magic Millions Horses in Training Sale at the Gold Coast – will be held in late November."

It was a brazen announcement, given that everything is in lockdown in Queensland, but Chester is confident the sale will go ahead.

This sale was originally postponed from its October date because of the equine influenza outbreak. The sale will kick off with two breeze-up days Nov. 25 and 26 and the sale Nov. 27 and 28.

"All horses in the sale must be and will be vaccinated," Chester said.