Major drug bust at kids’ horse-riding facility
A large commercial quantity of drugs has been seized during a police raid at one of South Australia's leading equestrian facilities.
SA Police has confirmed Kirkcaldy Park, a well-known property at Meadows in the Adelaide Hills that is used by hundreds of schoolchildren each year, was raided last month.
Property owner Karin Edwards - who quit her role as vice-chair of the Equestrian SA board after her de facto partner was charged with serious drug offences stemming from the raid - told The Advertiser she "had no idea" her property was allegedly being used for illegal purposes.
Ms Edwards has not been charged in relation to the seizure, nor have police accused her of involvement in the cannabis crop.
Police said they searched the property on Razorback Rd at Meadows on Thursday, January 23, and officers found cannabis plants and dried cannabis packaged in boxes in two large sheds.
One person has been arrested and bailed to appear in court next month, but police say further arrests are likely.
The police statement reads: "A 53-year-old man from Meadows was arrested and charged with trafficking a large commercial quantity of cannabis and other drug offences. He was bailed to appear in the Mount Barker Magistrates Court on March 25."
The Controlled Substances Act 1984 and Controlled Substances Regulations 2014 define a large commercial quantity of cannabis as 100 plants or more, or 2kg or more of "pure cannabis". The charge carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a maximum fine of $500,000.
Ms Edwards, who has also resigned as chair of eventing with ESA, said the arrested man is her de facto partner of three years.
She said she was yet to be interviewed by police but was expecting to "do that soon".
"I don't know a whole lot except my partner got (charged with) growing some plants in an old house that doesn't get used," Ms Edwards said.
"I've never smoked it, never touched it and know nothing about it."
Ms Edwards said she felt resigning was "the best thing to do for the sport" until she had more information.
"We have people here every day riding - and I just had no idea," she added.
"The place is not a big income for me. Most of the money goes back to keeping it going."
Kirkcaldy Park is regarded as the "hub" of the equestrian sport in South Australia.
The inter-school equestrian program involving thousands of schoolchildren is held there regularly.
An iconic youth development scholarship program, initiated by dual Olympic gold medallist Gill Rolton, has been held at Kirkcaldy Park over 30 years, while interstate and overseas coaches regularly use the facility for training.
ESA chair and Olympic gold medallist Wendy Schaeffer said Ms Edwards resigned from the board after she approached her to talk about the police raid.
In an initial statement on its Facebook page, ESA announced that Ms Edwards' resignation was due to "personal reasons" and thanked her for her "valuable and enthusiastic contribution, and her many years of service".
After an approach from The Advertiser, ESA issued a full statement to members announcing it would no longer conduct training clinics at Kirkcaldy Park in the interests of "protecting our membership, especially our children, until investigations and any proceedings that follow are completed".
ESA said it will comply with its responsibilities to the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) that aims to protect Australia's sporting integrity.
Insiders say the sport has been rocked by the revelations and senior members are concerned the incident will damage the sport's credibility at a time when it was trying to bounce back from years of scandals.
Over the past two years, as reported by The Advertiser, ESA has seen mass resignations, allegations of bullying of children by staff and the illegal unauthorised release of private members' information to a third party.
ESA is currently implementing recommendations from a six-month taxpayer-funded $50,000 inquiry and report into governance issues.
Maggie Dawkins, inaugural chair of the inter-school program, said she had recommended to ESA it adopt the pony club policy requiring all adults over 18 years to have a mandatory working with children clearance as a condition of membership.
She said the allegations, if proven true, were troubling.
"I'm greatly concerned about junior members attending clinics at a venue that has drugs," Ms Dawkins said.
"It's all very sad to hear because the name Kirkcaldy Park has been synonymous with equestrian sport for decades."