The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) has expressed its disappointment at the decision by the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) to disrupt the movement of horses between the two jurisdictions.
The DAWR has informed the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) that it intends to suspend horse movements to Australia from 2 October 2017 pending a review of the biosecurity controls related to the Equine Disease Free Zone (EDFZ) between Hong Kong and Conghua in the Chinese Mainland. The HKJC is scheduled to open the Conghua Training Centre (CTC) in the third quarter of 2018.
Implications of this suspension include:
- Horses cannot be transported directly from Hong Kong to Australia for participation in racing events or for retirement purposes.
- Australian horses will not be permitted to travel to compete in Hong Kong’s international races.
- Hong Kong horses transported to Australia via New Zealand will require 180 days residency in New Zealand.
Horse movements to and from Hong Kong in relation to other countries are unaffected by this DAWR decision. Horses from every jurisdiction other than Australia will still be able to travel and compete in Hong Kong on exactly the same conditions as have previously existed. Horses purchased in Australia for permanent export to Hong Kong are also not affected by the DAWR decision.
“This is a highly prejudicial action and it is at odds with the substantial economic relationship between the racing, breeding and wagering sectors of Australia and Hong Kong, which has existed for many years,” said the HKJC’s Mr. Andrew Harding, Executive Director, Racing Authority.
“DAWR’s review of the EDFZ must be carried out swiftly so that regular horse movements from Hong Kong to Australia can be resumed in a timely manner and we are in discussions both directly with DAWR and through the Australian Consulate-General to ensure that this occurs. Furthermore, the Club’s stable operations team will work with Owners to find alternative retirement locations during this period.”
The Australian Government’s DAWR was formally notified in March 2016 of trial horse movements utilising the EDFZ. In total 19 horses have been moved over an 18 month period: four small scale horse movements of two geldings in any one shipment have been conducted since February 2016 (February 2016, February 2017, April 2017, June 2017), one movement of four geldings in July 2017, and one movement of seven geldings in August 2017. The movements were planned and conducted with the supervision of the AFCD, Chinese Mainland veterinary authorities (Guangdong CIQ and the Ministry of Agriculture) and the Customs and Immigration authorities of both jurisdictions.
On each occasion the horses were transported in government authority-sealed, GPS-monitored vehicles and were stabled in high security stables within CTC during the entire period, all under the supervision of government veterinary officials and the HKJC. As the entire Conghua administrative district covering an area of 2,009 square kilometres is considered both ‘disease-free’ and ‘local-horse free’, including a 5km radius core area of the EDFZ surrounding CTC, there was no possibility the horses transported to CTC could come in contact with or be in the vicinity of local Chinese Mainland-resident horses. This freedom from disease and total exclusion of other horses is enforced by the Chinese Mainland’s Ministry of Agriculture.
“Given that the Australian Chief Veterinary Officer did not express any concerns 18 months ago when he was officially informed about the first trial,” Mr. Harding added, “it is impossible to see how DAWR can now say that these trials are the basis for imposing an immediate ban on direct imports from Hong Kong to Australia. The truth is that the Club’s biosecurity controls are world’s best and the fact that each of the trials conducted since 2016 have been incident-free evidences this.”
The HKJC’s expertise in maintaining the high health status of the Hong Kong racehorse population has been amply demonstrated over many years. In addition to the routine importation of over 400 horses per year, the Club conducts a number of international races which attract runners from across the world. In respect of the Hong Kong International Races alone, the Club manages the temporary import/export of approximately 30 of the best thoroughbred horses in the world. The Club has also successfully managed the conduct of equestrian competitions such as the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games (in Hong Kong) and the 2010 Asian Games (at Conghua), major equestrian competitions which involved the importation and subsequent exportation of over 250 and 95 international horses, respectively.
The EDFZ is a World Animal Health Organization (OIE) management system that ensures all horses resident within the zone are of a proven high health status for international movement purposes. Strict government controls are applied to the movement of horses in and out of the zone and also to disease surveillance and reporting systems. The EDFZ was established by Chinese Mainland veterinary authorities (MOA – Ministry of Agriculture and AQSIQ – General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine) to allow the international movement of horses for competition in the 2010 Asian Games.
A World Animal Health Organization (OIE) expert mission visited the site in 2008, to provide expert advice on the establishment of the zone. Former Australian Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Gardner Murray was the Special Advisor to the OIE on the establishment of the EDFZ.
The 2010 Asian Games equestrian events were successfully completed in November 2010 with 95 horses from 16 countries participating. No disease outbreaks or transmissions of disease occurred and all horses returned to their home countries without incident.
The EDFZ has been recognized by the European Union Commission since 2010 by publication of the Commission Decision of 30th April 2010 amending Decisions 92/260/EEC, 93/195/EEC, 93/197/EEC and 2004/211/EC.