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.