The Old Pambula Racecourse was known by Pambula’s early white settlers as ‘The Marsh’. This 25ha area, now part of today’s Panboola, was dedicated on February 2 1880, by the Governor of NSW Sir Augustus Loftus for ‘the purposes of public recreation’ and a trust was appointed ‘to permit and suffer the land to be used as they think fit and proper for any of the purposes hereinafter described’. Officially this newly declared Recreation Reserve was to be used – firstly as a Racecourse, secondly as a Training Ground, thirdly as a Cricket Ground and fourthly any public amusement.
In 1889 the Pambula District Jockey Club was formed and a racetrack laid out. The Pambula Town Plate was the main race of the season before the first Pambula Cup was introduced in 1897.
However, despite the building of a 350 metre embankment to reduce tidal inundation, and the construction of a dam within the track, flooding often resulted in the cancellation of race meetings.
Pambula’s most recent flooding event was in 1992. Residents and in particular racing enthusiasts recall the water level reaching the window ledges of the Jockeys Room, a height of about one and a half meters. Once again extensive and expansive restoration work was needed for the track and the Racecourse facilities.
It was not until December 31, 1997, the Imlay racing Club, which had been formed in 1975, held its final race meting, the Centenary Pambula Cup, exactly 100 years since the first one. The Imlay Racing Club and the Bega District Jockey Club united to form the Sapphire Coast Turf Club at a new racecourse in Kalaru. The era of horseracing at Pambula had ended.
In 2002, the NSW Government regazetted the site as Pambula Wetland and Heritage Reserve for ‘Public Recreation and Coastal Environment Protection’ and it is still managed by a Trust of local community members.
The Pambula Wetland and Heritage Reserve Trust aims to protect the valuable wetland environment, and preserve the heritage aspects of this important local site.
No longer needing to be cleared for racegoers visibility, much of the natural vegetation of natural wetland species inside the track has returned. The sand racetrack is maintained to a width of four meters and is popular with walkers and cyclists.