By Chase Editor Pat McLeod
In 2016, when NSW Premier Mike Baird announced a ban on greyhound racing in that state, the ‘copper’ in Rob Vellar sensed a massive injustice.
Six years later Baird and the ban are distant memories and Vellar now heads the greyhound industry’s most powerful organization – Greyhounds Australasia.
“I was not a fan of that decision (the ban),” says Vellar, a 23-year veteran and former high-ranking officer of the NSW police force.
“I was opposed to the way the Government went about attempting to introduce that ban. I have a very strong policy background and I thought there had been not enough consultation.
“I was very sympathetic to the greyhound industry when the ban was announced and I have been very close to people in the industry since that time … now, I really wanted to do my bit to strengthen the industry after what I saw was a wrong policy.”
Vellar has never been a part of the greyhound industry, but his skill sets, which are steeped in strategy, governance and compliance, made him the lead candidate when Greyhounds Australasia recently sought their first independent chairman.
He took over that role on March 21, from out-going chairman, Greyhound Racing New Zealand’s chairman Sean Hannan.
The appointment is a departure from GA’s policy of appointing a chair from within their directors, made up of representatives from the jurisdictional state bodies – each Australian State, the Northern Territory and New Zealand.
“There is no doubt the greyhound industry has come ahead in leaps and bounds in a number of areas Including animal welfare and integrity,” says Vellar. “A very important part of integrity is good governance, including transparency.
“Having an independent chair is part of that good governance.
“I know the GA board is full of passion, commitment and an enormous amount of technical knowledge expertise and talent extending through the length and depth of their sub-committees.
“We often think of greyhound industry participants, and rightly so, as owners, trainers, vets, officials and people who are directly connected to a race meeting and who are the lifeblood of the industry.
“I have not been involved in those circles, so I am independent from that perspective, but I think it is important to recognise that there are extended parties who take interest in the industry and who make decisions that affect all of us.
“The bureaucratic and parliamentary arms of government are additional participants in the greyhound racing industry. I bring knowledge and familiarity in how those arms may seek to address things inside the industry.”
Vellar, who is married with three children, was a police officer from 1989-2012, is also a lawyer and worked in police legal services for six years before returning to the field and finished as the Commander of the Blue Mountains region.
He was then appointed an Assistant Commissioner for Fair Trading NSW before joining the Department of Resources and Energy, heading up the governance area.
He also spent four years as the Chief of Staff to the NSW Minister for Resources and Energy.
Vellar sees plenty of blue sky in the future of greyhound racing and says the industry only has to look at its own back yard to achieve broader recognition and growth.
“I think the industry has the opportunity to advocate the great work it has done in relation to animal welfare and integrity generally,” he said.
“I see increasing industry participation in patronage, breeders, trainers owners … in fact in every facet.
“I think it is up to GA and the states to embark on a process of promotion that leads to benefit those already in the industry and those who are yet to come in.”
Vellar said that promotion was the one major change he would be driving.
“I would like to see GA and the states improve their level of communication to industry participants,” he said.
“I think all industries look for engagement and communication – from those comes certainty,” he said.
“So, I think getting communication and engagement right is crucial to a happy industry.”