Race track closure recommendations raise regional ire

There has been an understandable response to the thoroughbred racing report that recommends closing twenty regional race tracks. And there are some recommendations that seem out of touch with reality.

Stuff:  Famous Kiwi holiday racecourses among 20 slated for closure

They’ve been part of the Kiwi way of life, but famous holiday racecourses have been earmarked for closure in a radical report on the racing industry.

Thousands of holidaymakers flock to race meetings at venues such as Thames, Stratford, Greymouth, Hokitika, and Omakau in Central Otago during the summer break, but they are among the 20 that will close if the Messara Report is adopted by the racing industry and Government.

Peters commissioned Australian racing administrator John Messara to review the industry and one of the central planks of his report deals with consolidating racecourse assets.

Of the 48 thoroughbred tracks that currently hold race meetings, he recommends the closure of 20, with their land being sold and the proceeds going towards bringing the remaining 28 courses to an acceptable standard.

Who owns the racecourses?

Would Avondale be happy to sell up and hand all the proceeds over to Ellerslie? Dargaville to Ruakaka? Gore to Invercargill? Omakau to Cromwell?

The South Canterbury/North Otago closures are hard to understand. Should Waimate and Timue gift sale proceeds to Ashburton? Should Oamaru and Kurow sell up and hand everything over to Waikouaiti?

It’s hard to understand why Waikouaiti was left in the remain list when larger courses are told to shut down.

Both Waikouaiti and Omakau had meetings cancelled early this year – I arrived at Waikouaiti before I found out, and got as far a Ranfurly before fortuitously finding out Omakau was off.

ODT: Racing clubs vow to fight

Lower South Island racing clubs have vowed to fight to keep their racecourses open, following the shock call for their closure on Thursday.

Central Otago Racing club president Tony Lepper said the proposed closure of the Omakau thoroughbred track was “a kick in the guts for rural Central Otago.”

Gore Racing Club president Justine Abernethy said its racecourse would not close without a fight from the local community. Officials from thoroughbred and harness racing clubs in Eastern Southland had started talks about the future of the course, she said.

Messara visited Gore racecourse when he was researching for his report, but appeared not to give it thorough consideration as he was there for “about five minutes”, Abernethy said.

Gore Racing Club and Gallop South officials were waiting for the Australian to arrive and he was gone before they got a chance to say hello, she said.

“We were waiting for Mr Messara to come and meet with us and he drove in and drove out. He didn’t have a look around the facility or anything. He has made a decision without looking at the big picture.

“But you need to understand what this facility means to the community and where are trainers going to go that are in Eastern Southland.”

Messara represents big business interests, and seems to have no inclination to understand regional racing histories and community attachment.

Does Peters understand what a kick in the teeth closures would mean for regional tracks? Does he care?

It looks like Peters has played regions for mugs, when his top priority has been for his racing industry mates.


  1. artcroft

     /  1st September 2018

    Is racing a core Govt service? Why the hell is the taxpayer involved in this crap. Oh right! Corruption.

    • Gerrit

       /  1st September 2018

      It is a full on attack on the New Zealand Racing Board. A not for profit organization that distributes their largess back into the racing industry.

      With them about to lose their license to operate the TAB, there will be a loss of 820 jobs plus;

      “After operating costs and expenses, our profit is distributed to the three New Zealand Racing Codes New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, Harness Racing New Zealand and Greyhound Racing New Zealand in accordance with an agreed funding model. In 2016/17, NZRB distributed $137.6 million to the three Codes.”


      So why are the Australians handed the TAB on a silver platter?

      Corruption cant be proven but it is not smelling of roses that for sure.

      All the regional clubs can lose is their license to run TAB race meetings. The land and infrastructure belongs to its members, no way Peters can nationalise those without electoral repercussions.

      If the industry needs streamlining keep the biggest assett )TAB) in New Zealand hands.

      Hopefully all those commentators that bag at traitors those politicians for selling (or giving away in this case) New Zealand assets to overseas entities will get up in arms about the TAB at the very least.

      • Blazer

         /  1st September 2018

        Racing has been run with a stunning lack of vision for decades.

        Cost blowouts in NZRB administration are eye watering.Can’t remember the number of slugs on 100k plus ,but its at council proportions.

        The punters are the lifeblood of the industry and they have been deserting the NZ TAB in droves.The ‘product’ is sub par.
        Sports betting is the only bright light.

        Then you have inter code friction ,with controversy over section 16 and racing day allocations and disbursements.

        NZ was once ‘Rugby,Racing and Beer’…2 out of 3 are in decline…one serious.

        • Gerrit

           /  1st September 2018

          If it is broken, fix it up, but to give the TAB to the Australians? WTF

          “When approached by Newsroom for comment on what might happen to Trackside if the Australians took over, one prominent staffer said it was likely that “racing in New Zealand will end up getting covered like Tasmania or other Australian states. They won’t cross to our tracks five minutes before the race like happens now and the narrative of racing will be lost.”


          “The TAB turns over more than a billion dollars in race bets and returns a total of about $150 million annually to the racing codes – gallops, harness racing and greyhounds.”

          How much tax is paid on that profit? How much more tax could be paid if the retrurns were lifted to 20% of turnover (or are racing clubs covered by charitable trusts and pay no tax?)

          “Sources have told Newsroom that the big gambling companies in Australia have proposed giving the industry an up-front cash payment and more money, said to be $100 million over 25 years, if they get the license to control betting on NZ races. ”

          Giving the TAB license to an Australian outfit means income of $100M per year for 25 years. (slashed from $130M today and capable of being much higher currently)

          Jeez talk about giving sovereignty away.

          Sounds like Cullen and the New Zealand Railways deal he did with Toll Holdings.

          • Blazer

             /  1st September 2018

            the TAB will not be ‘given’ away.
            If you understand the industry you would realise its the customer base that the NZ TAB has that is worth money.Internet betting as opposed to physical TAB’s is similar to banking in the way it is progressing and easily set up.
            The on course racing is doomed unless better ,sustainable stake levels are introduced.
            Broadcasting and ancillary products have limited value and can be contracted out.
            The opex of the NZRB is OTT and a private operator would bank millions by making most of the staff redundant.
            The public at large are not interested in racing now or ever.

    • Blazer

       /  1st September 2018

      employs 45,000 plus and has a large export market.

  2. “It looks like Peters has played regions for mugs, when his top priority has been for his racing industry mates“

    Yep, yep and absolutely

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  1st September 2018

      I agree absolutely.

      I don’t believe it’s corruption, just absolute high-handedness.

  3. duperez

     /  1st September 2018

    The taxpayers (Government) is involved because of ‘”corruption”? Corruption by the Racing Board? By the Government? By the Minister? By the fact a report was commissioned?

    Maybe those who are involved in the industry in New Zealand can do their own report which comes up with ways of catering for the interests, needs, peculiarities and wishes of a diverse constituency. Dargaville and Ellerslie, Kumara and Riccarton might have locals who belong to clubs and keep them going. If clubs can keep themselves going and are financially viable should Headquarters make them close up shop?

    Banks and other businesses desert the regional communities for the big smoke regardless of what locals in the smaller towns see as important. Looks like racing is going the same way.

    • artcroft

       /  1st September 2018

      By the fact that Winnie is well funded by the racing industry bigwigs, so they get to decide what happens to the industry in NZ. Meanwhile Winnie acts as their Govt enforcer. And build race tracks at tax payer expense in Cambridge for them.

  4. Nookin

     /  1st September 2018

    It looks like Peters has played regions for mugs, when his top priority has been for his racing industry mates.

    Got it in one!

  5. duperez

     /  1st September 2018

    Ah, so a racecourse in Cambridge is Winston Peters’ Auckland convention centre.😊

    • Traveller

       /  1st September 2018

      Sir Patrick Hogan bromance

      • Blazer

         /  1st September 2018

        Hogan sold Cambridge Stud some time ago…retired.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  1st September 2018

          i went to a Bride of the Year once, where one of the brides was a Hogan. It was held at the race course. Although neither she nor her dress were the most attractive, (the dress was very fussy with an enormous and pointless bow on the back) guess who won. Nobody seemed surprised.

  6. Gerrit

     /  1st September 2018

    More murky details in the fine print.

    “Australian John Messara’s report on how to help the ailing racing industry suggests the lifting of a ban on the New Zealand Racing Board being allowed to own pubs with pokie machines.”


    “Pokie grants, made from the profits of poker machines, are distributed by over 30 different pokie trusts to sports and charitable causes. Those groups could face a major drop in funding if the Racing Board aimed to buy up the highest-performing sites, and re-directed the grants they generated back towards racing, instead of general causes.

    One analyst said the Racing Board would have huge buying power – because while a regular pub landlord just got a small site rental – or commission – for hosting poker machines on top of their bar profits, the Board would get the bar profit, the commission, and all the pokie money, so to the Board, the pubs would be worth several times their regular market value.”