Racing clubs not happy with Racing Bill seizure of assets provisions

Tim Antonio, the Chairman of the Dargaville Racing Club, has written an open letter to Winston Peters expressing concerns over the Racing Bill currently at committee stage in Parliament (it passed it’s first reading in December).

Included in it’s provisions is the power to stop a racing club from racing and to dissolve the racing club, and remarkably to transfer any assets to ‘the racing code’.

Many small racing clubs have been established and maintained by local communities. It has been proposed that twenty racing clubs be dissolved, and appear at risk of having all assets taken from them.


here is the proposed Bill (PDF):

Click to access 362429780labourandnewzealandfirstcoalitionagreement.pdf

It is known that people with ‘racing interests’ have donated to the New Zealand First Foundation, which is now under investigation by the serious Fraud Office after the Electoral Commission found that donations weren’t passed on to the NZ First Party.

See RNZ: NZ First Foundation received tens of thousands of dollars from donors in horse racing industry

The New Zealand First Foundation has been receiving tens of thousands of dollars from donors in the horse racing industry in payments which fall just below the $15,000.01 at which party donations are usually made public.

As racing minister, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has delivered significant benefits to the industry, including millions of dollars of government money spent on tax breaks and scrapping betting levies.

It has long been known that Peters has promoted some racing interests, and that some racing interests have already received tax breaks from Peters (the current Government). The Spinoff:  Winston Peters stages his own Moment of Truth, live on Facebook

“How do you respond to the horse racing industry donations to your party as the horse racing minister?”

“For 30 years,” Peters said, “I’ve been talking about the need to save this industry.” Why would there be any surprise that he was supported by individuals interested in the industry, and related companies, to the tune of $80,000 in 2017, according to RNZ?

Besides, Peters observed, the current racing policy is the result of an independent report by Australian racing expert John Messara. He omitted to mention that Messara’s report was submitted in July 2018, and two months earlier in May Peters had announced a $4.8 million in tax breaks for “high quality” horse breeders, which officials estimated may blow out to $40 million and which was the only tax cut in the coalition’s first budget.

The 2017 New Zealand Labour Party & New Zealand First Coalition Agreement gave Peters the position of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Racing, and commits Labour to…

  • Support New Zealand First’s Racing policy

That’s a remarkably open or blanket commitment.

Maybe Mr Antonio and others concerned about the Bill would be better targeting the Green MPs who also voted for the First Reading. But are they committed to supporting the Bill? Maybe. From 2017 New Zealand Labour Party & Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand Confidence & Supply Agreement:

Relationship to other agreements

Both parties to this agreement recognise that Labour will be working with other parties both in terms of
coalitions and confidence and supply arrangements.

Labour agrees that it will not enter into any other relationship agreement which is inconsistent with this
agreement and the Green Party and Labour agree that they will each act in good faith to allow all such
agreements to be complied with.

It appears that the Greens are committed to allowing the Labour-NZ First agreement “to be complied with”.

But Mr Antonio would also need to appeal to National who also supported the Bill at its first reading. But National MPs have expressed concerns about the power of the Racing Minister and the ability to seize racing club assets.


Now, in the bill the Minister has made it very clear that he has the ultimate discretion over who will run the racing industry, going forward. That is a lack of accountability, a lack of ownership, and a lack of respect for those people that are in the industry. For example, the Minister can appoint the board to replace codes if he needs to do so. So the codes that may be out there, the racing codes of thoroughbred, standard bred, and dogs, can be replaced. Their boards can be replaced by the Minister at his whim under this legislation. The Minister can also appoint a commissioner for any disputes between the three codes, giving him ultimate discretion, again, to dictate what may be done.

But the greatest discretion this Minister has is in regard to the assets of clubs and the relationship they have with codes. Racing clubs, under this bill, will have to abide by the rules of their relevant code.

The National Party does not accept that lack of independence and clarity as worded in this bill. It is very difficult to see how clubs can have any autonomy under this legislation. They are, essentially, at the whim of the code, and if the code is not effective in putting pressure on, they can then be at the whim of the Minister. This bill gives the Minister the ability to override the club’s decision and to vest their assets and their landownership in the code. It is, effectively, a mechanism where the Minister can nationalise racing portfolios and racing clubs, and can take away their ability to have independent racing operations.

On behalf of Labour: Hon KRIS FAAFOI

In terms of property, it is worth emphasising here that the preferred approach for property decisions is negotiation and for the community interests to be recognised. The bill introduces a suite of changes to resolve historical property issues that have contributed to the decline of the industry. Two property objectives are introduced to guide decision making by the industry: first, the value of racing property should be retained in the industry and used for maximum industry benefit, and, two, statutory provisions are introduced to support negotiations between clubs and codes on using surplus venues. The bill also introduces as a backstop a statutory decision-making process for the Minister for Racing to recommend an Order in Council to allocate property to the code. Provision is also made for payments to the club and community where it is warranted.

So the assets of clubs can be decided on by the Minister for Racing.

Also from Labour: KIERAN McANULTY

The Labour Party’s proud to support this bill. It is a bill that is needed, and it is a bill that will support an industry that many of us love.

It is a fantastic industry that supports many regions and provinces where many of us here in this House live, and I think that this bill, under the leadership of the Minister for Racing, the Rt Hon Winston Peters, will be seen and looked back on in history as the thing that rejuvenated this industry. I commend it to the House.

The Bill appears to do the opposite of supporting the regions, especially the South Island.  NZ First mustn’t get many votes of donations from the South Island.

BARBARA KURIGER (National—Taranaki – King Country)

We recognise the need for change in the industry. We are supporting the intent of this bill, and we are supporting it to first reading, as we look to help the racing industry transform into the competitive market that it does have the potential to be. But where we disagree, and where we want to have a good discussion at select committee, is that this bill gives too much power to the Minister when it comes to decisions around these racing venues and racing tracks around the country. In particular, we can’t support Subpart 2 of Part 1 in its current form, because this Subpart 2 refers to the transfer of assets and surplus venues. Really, this will be like a red rag to a bull to many in rural provincial New Zealand.

So, clause 25, that allows the Order in Council recommended by the Minister to grab these properties if an agreement can’t be reached by local clubs, is a step too far for the National caucus, because we believe in private property rights and we know that these people have put a lot of effort into this over a period of time.

No Green MPs spoke on the Bill.

It’s not just the potential seizure of assets, the forced closure of courses is a big deal for regions.

Look at the clubs that could be closed in the South Island: Reefton, Greymouth, Hokitika, Motukarara, Timaru, Kurow, Oamaru, Waimate, Oamaku, Winton and Gore.

That guts racing from West Coast and the bottom half of the South Island, and not just country clubs. Places like Timaru and Gore have been significant in racing for a long time.


Leave a comment


  1. Duker

     /  24th February 2020

    “Many small racing clubs have been established and maintained by local communities.” ??

    The small clubs have been subsidised by the racing industry, they havent been viable for decades , probably since the the 1950s. NZs wet winter weather means a lot of cancellations

    This map shows the country is dotted with small courses, with 4 courses alone on the West Coast , 4 in Southland its ridiculous

    Is the Dargaville RC really able to continue , of course small clubs want others culled but not their club. Its a bit like bowling clubs , they once were everywhere but now are dying and nothing will keep them going.

    The tax breaks for horses are nothing of the kind, it was just putting horse breeding into the same category as any other ‘product’,
    What about the $40 mill PER YEAR tax breaks that Jackson and his related movie production interests get , now thats well over and above what other normal businesses get.
    Would Spinoff be so critical of that if it wasnt for its demographic audience and not for ‘old peoples’ pursuits like horse racing and supported by ‘old peoples party’ NZ First?

    THis amde me laugh
    “National MPs have expressed concerns ….”
    Thats normal political posturing , if you had a $ for every time an MP was ‘concerned’ but then did nothing, you would be a rich man.

    Racing is dying and the small clubs , north or south island are just decrepit old wooden grandstands around a paddock and with occasional 4th rate horse races that dont catch the eye of the punters.

    • Duker

       /  24th February 2020

      “Places like Timaru and Gore have been significant in racing for a long time”

      Timaru’s South Canterbury RC races 3 times per year .
      The Gore RC has just 4 meetings a year
      Significant is the complete opposite of the reality here

      • Corky

         /  24th February 2020

        I think you have National mixed up with Labour. BTW…I heard Sean say all Labour MPs have to pay 10% of their earnings to the Labour Party. Is that true…or was Sean just having some good clean Tory fun?

        • Duker

           /  24th February 2020

          That was the Greens who are tithed .

          The nats MPs have fundraising quotas too, which they have to meet or else, are some funding their own campaigns ? Its hard to say as they ‘whitewash’ electorate donations through the party HQ, but its hard to assume other wise

          • Corky

             /  24th February 2020

            ”The nats MPs have fundraising quotas too, which they have to meet or else,”

    • Corky

       /  24th February 2020

      ”Racing is dying and the small clubs , north or south island are just decrepit old wooden grandstands around a paddock and with occasional 4th rate horse races that dont catch the eye of the punters.”

      You have correctly described the facilities of many small clubs. But you have the punter attendance and spirit of these places wrong. Race meets at many smaller communities are a major event… at least in the ones I know of.

      My, things seem to be going from bad to worse for Winston. Let’s see – gun owners and jockeys. A huge voting pool for NZ1. All we need now is for Winston to piss off the blue rinse set, and it’s good night nurse.

      • duperez

         /  24th February 2020

        All it needs is for Simon Bridges to announce that when they’re in all the racing clubs from Dargville to Westport to Motukarara, to Winton will get multi-million handouts each year to continue in the style they want to.

        • Duker

           /  24th February 2020

          I think the Wesport club had the right idea, they donated their course to the local council. They at least knew their racing future was over and the land close to town could became a community asset.
          Those other clubs should do the same if they dont want an ‘asset grab’

          Avoided in the bleat about the poor run down clubs, was the proposal to ‘privatise’ the TAB, but in the modern form of ‘leasing’ to an Australian business ..but of course it would be gone for good.
          That should;d be resisted and Im very surprised it hasnt been shot down by NZF

  2. Blazer

     /  24th February 2020

    Racing is doomed in NZ.
    Comingling which was meant to be a big earner for NZ Racing, but actually resulted in locals shunning the inferior domestic product and betting into foreign pools,especially Australia.

    NZ does not have the critical mass to offer realistic prizemoney and racing here has been a gravy train for a few that needed addressing decades ago.

    The future is NZ as a breeding ,prep participant supplying Australia,Singapore and Hong Kong….and even that will be very challenging in the future.

    • duperez

       /  24th February 2020

      Racing as a community event meets business reality meets generations of families with local effort and input meets business suits meets the need and desire for top facilities meets the 2020s.

      Of course it’s an emotional issue. Right through the country communities created recreational facilities to meet their needs. We had tennis clubs, rugby ones, hockey clubs and the local hall and ‘the rec.’ Local facilities for local needs.

      Transport changed, roads changed, the world changed and people recreated by travelling elsewhere. Clubs which were there forever wound up or amalgamated.

      The views of those lamenting the loss and changes are heard, not so much solutions.
      Race days at Dargaville and Hokitika (and all over the country) are great days for the smaller communities. What is to happen to keep them going and viable?

      The bookkeepers say ‘rationalisation’ has to happen, economics dictate that. Down the same track I suppose as the local garages and petrol pumps and post offices and banks. Sad. but true.

      I guess the rules about what happens to assets of a club on its dissolution or the club not having race days have been on the books for years. It would have been preferable for discussion about the propriety and suitability of them to have gone on in less emotional circumstances.

      Over a few years I’d heard discussion about ownership of the Dargaville course if racing ceased there and the input of volunteer workers over many years and provisions for facilities to go to the community. It’s got close to decision time and there is an unfortunate impinging factor – Winston Peters used to be MP for the electorate.

      It’s election year and while Maggie Barry won’t come back to Dargaville for an encore of her sad performance in the town, maybe Simon Bridges will come back to town with a multi-million handout to keep racing in the town and the reminder that with the Matakohe bridge double laned, travel from the south will be easier.

    • Duker

       /  24th February 2020

      Because we are 2 hrs ahead of the Australian eastern seaboard , it gives us a chance to get the early punters, a race at midday here is 10am in Sydney and we can have some good races in the 12-3pm Australian time slot.
      This happens now, but I dont think the betting pools are combined , but the odds can be seen in each.
      I went once or twice to a race meeting in Australia with a friend who had a background in horse breeding industry. I was surprised most of all by punters at betting counters who had a sign on their back that said ‘ betting till the jump’ so as to warn you not to queue. In reality they were professional punters , some quite young who were playing all sorts of combinations. Computers help with that now of course and it can be done online instead of standing at a counter.
      In Hong Kong for a long time they resisted the huge turnover computer based betting , but now encourage it as horse racing is ideal for computer odds and horses are mostly consistent form.
      Sports teams , not so much and NRL rugby league in Australia is supposed to be practically useless for computer betting ( for nefarious reasons)

      • Blazer

         /  24th February 2020

        you know very little about punters on horse racing.
        The NZ ‘product’ is an unattractive proposition…from the tracks to the judiciary ,it is sub standard,and punters have no confidence in it.

        • Duker

           /  24th February 2020

          No . Australians are just bigger gamblers period…of all kinds , pokies, Lotto, sports betting as well horses They are only 5x more population I wouldnt mind betting the turnover is 10 -15x that of NZ
          Pubs have TAB betting terminals , some sort of synthetic horse racing, other keno like betting terminals with results every hour. I couldnt even go into the details as it wasnt something that interested me.

          • Blazer

             /  24th February 2020

            It shows that it does not interest you…you know nothing about it.
            I do.

            • Duker

               /  24th February 2020

              As usual facts dont agree with you
              On a per-capita basis, Australians lose far and away the most in the world: more than 1,200 Australian dollars every year (or $920).

              Australia’s gambling losses per adult are more than double those in the United States, and around 50 percent higher than second-placed Singapore

              The machine gambling ( 60%) is an indication of the gambling on other methods as well.
              Are theeir pokie machines better odds and prizes than ours?

            • Blazer

               /  24th February 2020

              stop being a drop kick…racing is what the topic is..have you read the Messara you even know who Messara is?Get googling…know all.

          • Duker

             /  24th February 2020

            Aussies will gamble on two flies crawling up the wall, you overate the facilities and purses. Yes the top courses in Sydney and Melbourne cities of 5 mill are going to out rate anything in NZ, but at the heart of it all is the gambling disease, they have more casual gamblers , more regular gamblers and even more professional gamblers. When I put $10 on Kiwi to win the Melbourne Cup, to me kiwi was a shoe polish brand , but the advice that it had won at this distance came from a young train driver from kalgoolie who made a special trip.
            As I showed in evidence Aussies gamble much more than us, much much more and horse racing isn’t even the biggest sector of that.

    • Duker

       /  24th February 2020

      You havent read the story have you.
      The LTNZ didnt drop the action because they were wrong , it was the trucking company who moved to a GPS and online system to keep track of hours, Kms and loads and thus were allowed to reinstate their TRL. 10s of 1000s of trips were overweight . It was outright fraud but not uncommon in the logging transport industry.
      “licence based on audits which picked up 158 alleged log book infringements by drivers and found company vehicles had committed 116 traffic offences over a three year period. ”

      Previously they had many many breaches over the years for excessive hours and over weight trucks, so instead of letting them get away with it again and again they had their license cancelled. A massive penalty was paid as well , which they appealed twice and lost.
      Semenoff thinks hes won but hes exposed as a Cowboy Trucker and just because he had 88 trucks thought it could get away with it

      • Conspiratoor

         /  24th February 2020

        This town has long been run by Croatian mafia although with a huge influx of newly arrived immigrants in recent years the balance of power is changing. Nevertheless this statement is correct…

        “Semenoff thinks hes won but hes exposed as a Cowboy Trucker and just because he had 88 trucks thought it could get away with it”

        • duperez

           /  24th February 2020

          The dreaded Croatian mafia has long been running the town! Does that mean when I get an urge to scratch an ich I don’t go into town??


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