New Zealand Industry Report Calls for Big Changes

Posted by On 4:07 PM

New Zealand Industry Report Calls for Big Changes

A report into the state of New Zealand racing was released yesterday, with the minister for racing Winston Peters describing it as a "blunt appraisal" of the industry, which it warns is edging toward "irreparable damage."

The report, released by Arrowfield Stud chairman John Messara, who was commissioned to review the industry, comes after the New Zealand Government commissioned Messara to conduct an independent assessment of the state of the domestic racing industry and to make recommendations for change.

The recommendations of the report, which was delivered in Hamilton Aug. 29, include:
• Renaming and restructuring the New Zealand Racing Board into Wagering New Zealand, with responsibilities devolving to individual codes.
• Outsourcing the TAB's commercial activities to an international wagering operator to gain advantages of scale.
• Reduc e the number of racetracks around the country from 48 to 28 and upgrade the remainder.
• Build three synthetic tracks at Cambridge, Awapuni, and Riccarton.
• Increase prize-money to more than NZ$100 million per year.

Peters, who is also the deputy prime minister, said the report confirmed some of his worst fears regarding the state of racing in the country.

"Mr. Messara's review delivers a blunt appraisal. He concludes the New Zealand's racing industry is in a state of serious malaise, and requires urgent reform. The review also warns Thoroughbred horse racing is at a tipping point of irreparable damage," Peters said. "It confirms what many of us have been worried about for a number of years and highlights the need for the industry to turn itself around."

Peters said a transition agency may be needed to follow the advice on the report, noting the severity of the report calls for more than the status quo.

"As this review identifies, a complex task lies ahead, and for that reason cabinet will also consider establishing a transition agency to help guide the process, particularly if there are changes to racing governance," he said. "Racing is a significant industry built on passionate support. It has created an industry with NZ$1.6 billion (US$1.056 billion) to GDP annually and is a major employer. As a nation, we should nurture this industry and grow it into something even greater."

One of the report's most radical recommendations is that the number of racecourses in the country should be cut by nearly half, with investment in three synthetic tracks at Cambridge, Awapuni, and Riccarton. Messara explained some of his findings via a video link at the launch of the report in Hamilton yesterday.

"I'm deeply distressed by the state of the New Zealand industry," he said. "I estimate in New Zealand's case that stakes ne ed to double. The New Zealand industry can have the brighter future it deserves.

"A reduction in the number of racecourses is an essential part of the overall package and it's achievable. I look forward to seeing New Zealand racing rise again."

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, the governing body of the Thoroughbred code in the country, has also welcomed the findings of the Messara report, believing it can bring about much needed change for the sport in New Zealand.

"It's time for change. We believe this report will create a blueprint for a thriving Thoroughbred industry," said NZTR chairman Alan Jackson."While our board has yet to consider the report in detail, the major recommendations are in line with NZTR's views and it is reassuring to have those policies verified by an independent and expert voice.

"But implementing the report will still require a considerable amount of work and investment,&qu ot; Jackson said. "We need to work with the government, the New Zealand Racing Board, and the Racing Industry Transition Agency to ensure that this opportunity is not wasted.

"We are confident that racing has a bright future in New Zealand, but real change and brave leadership will be required if we are to achieve the report's target of doubling prize money.

"We are at the crossroads in terms of sustainability, and we need to move quickly. It's a heavily regulated industry, and it is vital that any recommended changes to the Racing Act are put in place as soon as practicable, to allow each code to achieve their potential."

Jackson also said NZTR endorsed the recommendation that the number of venues be reduced.

"Infrastructure spending needs to be lifted. Many of our strategic tracks require significant investment, but if we attempt to retain the current number of venues, there is a risk that the infrastructu re spending will be spread too thinly," he said. "Our sport has had a significant economic and social impact on New Zealand. It sustains more than 14,000 full-time equivalent jobs, has over 55,000 participants, and generates more than NZ$1.6 billion in value-added contribution to the New Zealand economy.

"The Thoroughbred code, alone, has 16,000 owners, 3,700 breeders, and 1,000 trainers and generates more than 9,000 FTE jobs, plus volunteers."

Source: Google News New Zealand | Netizen 24 New Zealand

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