Gavel / Terry’s sitting loosely in the saddle of success

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Terry Snow at Willinga Park… “I hope the sport will be better off due to my contribution.” Photo Ginette Snow

AT 73 years of age, Canberra businessman Terry Snow is a man driven by his various passions.

Tim Gavel.

Canberra Airport is the most obvious example of his ability to translate a passion into a commercial success. Terry flew planes, jets and helicopters, and had an interest in commercial development. The result is a combination of an airport and a business hub.

To say it has made him wealthy is an understatement; not that he makes a point of it in general conversation. In fact, he comes across as somebody who just likes getting things done and done well. It is not just the airport and surrounding buildings, it’s also the gardens, landscaping and the sculptures.

Terry’s latest passion is the sport of equestrian. This has been translated into the development of an equine and stud-breeding complex at Bawley Point on the south coast regarded by many in the sport as one of the best in the world. Known as Willinga Park, it is suitable for dressage, showjumping, campdrafting and polocrosse. Having heard plenty about it, I decided to drive down to Bawley to see for myself.

On my way there I was thinking about the impact business people in Australia have had on various sports. Gina Rinehart is one who comes readily to mind with her support of swimming, rowing, synchronised swimming and volleyball. It is safe to say if it wasn’t for Rinehart some sportspeople wouldn’t have made it to the Rio Olympics. Another is Gerry Ryan, from Jayco Australia, and his financial backing of road cycling.

Willinga Park is quite surreal. The complex is at the end of a road and is announced with giant gates at the entrance. Walking through the facility, it is difficult not to focus on how much has been spent on the park. It is not just about horses; there are about 25 sculptures and the sweeping gardens blend into the landscape aspects, which are breathtaking.

Chatting with Terry at the park it becomes obvious that this is just the start, and it is not being done for personal gratification.

In a rare interview he told me about the legacy he hoped to leave the sport.

“I think money is not necessarily important, but it is necessary to make sure we have the best facility to launch our equestrians in the best possible way to compete internationally,” he said.

“Hopefully we can do better than we have done in the past and encourage young riders by providing the facilities. I hope the sport will be better off due to my contribution.”

He also told me of his desire to secure wider exposure for the sport by staging major world equestrian events at the complex attracting sponsors, crowds and television coverage. In other words, he has a strong desire to lift the sport into the mainstream.

“There’s probably three to four years work here yet, and when we do that maybe I will have a little bit more time to ride my horses instead of chasing builders and building facilities,” he said.

But it is not just unfinished business at Willinga Park that’s driving Terry.

“The big job at the airport has been done. Now we’ve got to develop strong freight links and our overseas networks,” he said.

“The biggest benefit we can make to the ACT is to bring tourism in from Asia in particular, but also from all around the world to share our fabulous city. It is truly a wonderful city. There is nothing like it in the world and we shouldn’t step back from that. We should promote it, the region and the south coast.”

For Terry is not just about buildings at Willinga Park and the airport.

“We have fabulous gardens with wonderful landscaping, and it is important that people can come and walk through them and enjoy them; take a little time to reflect and enjoy the gardens,” he said.

He and brother George started the Snow Foundation in 1991 to provide funds to benefit Canberra’s disadvantaged.

“We thought that we were lucky. I had a wonderful father who got me on the rails, so to speak. My brother George and I started the Snow Foundation and it has grown to an incredible size. I think we distribute $5 million a year now, principally to local charities. That’s been very satisfying. It’s run by my daughter, and we are very pleased to be able to help others.”

So what’s next after Willinga Park is up and running? Is there another passion?

“No, this will probably take me out! There’s quite a bit of work to do yet and I think at 73 years of age I’m probably getting towards the end of my use-by-date,” he said

After spending some time with Terry, I am not sure that’s any time soon and I came away in the belief that Canberra is a better place because of his various passions.

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Tim Gavel
Journalist and ABC sports broadcaster

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