“Lockdown Has Got Us Thinking” Responses.
Saturday 9th May 2020
Responses received in relation to this website’s article “Lockdown Has Got Us Thinking” (published 30th April 2020)
From Peter Mead (Editor has created bullet points)
- Clubs are taking the financial hit from the capital expenditure overruns and overly ambitious projections of future income by the TAB governance. Covid-19 enables RITA to implement change for the TAB on the basis there is no alternative.
- RITA have indicated they will have to make difficult and at times unpopular decisions and we know there’s likely to be fewer venues for racing.
- Harness racing in Southland so far as I can see has flourished under Southern Harness Racing. Central to this success has been the willingness to put aside narrow local interests in favour of the bigger picture of regional harness racing prosperity. Can this be done in relation to the number of courses?
- Regardless of the code the governing body owes it’s existence to it’s constituent clubs. Recognising this the code will always prefer a bottom up to a top down solution. RITA is less constrained but does favour change collegiately rather than unilaterally. Do we look for a bottom up solution in which we have major input or wait until eventually one is thrust upon us and bemoan the result as not being what we wanted? How many courses? Well not four, but maybe more than one!
- Invercargill city is home to 55% of Southlanders. It’s Ascot Park track is located immediately adjacent to the residential area of the city and the course is used by the other two codes – thoroughbred and greyhound. It appears the obvious first choice. Invercargill city is however not located centrally within the region. Furthermore, it could be unwise to put “all one’s eggs in one basket.” Possibly two tracks for harness racing would be the best option.
- But which of the other three? None of them are very far from Invercargill. Gore 65kms, Wyndham and Winton just over 30 kms away. The close proximity of Wyndham and Winton to Invercargill limit both as the other track. While hardly distant either, population and economic realities favour Gore which has the added advantage of also being used by the thoroughbred code. Based on present totalisator licences and usage, designation of Ascot Park and Gore could look something like:- Ascot Park – (15), Northern Southland (3) Riverton (1), Wairio (2) and Winton (7) – Gore – Gore (6), Wyndham (6)
- The split relative to Southland’s population is over weighted towards Ascot Park. To achieve something close to a 55% – 45% split, Invercargill would have to give up 6 dates. 3 each to Gore and Wyndham. Whether the urban/rural split is necessary or desirable is another matter.
- Ending racing at Winton and Wyndham does not necessarily mean these courses have no future. The land on which they have been established is not owned by either of the Clubs. Winton is a Crown Reserve and Wyndham is part of the Wyndham Recreation Reserve. Consequently, there is no possibility of either being sold or disposed of and the proceeds being used towards funding improvements at other venues as proposed by the Racing Industry Bill at present before Parliament. Both courses generate significant income for the clubs from farming/grazing activities, track fees and facilities rental. These could continue with the possibility of further income being derived from non-racing activities.
- This additional income does require the adoption of a totally different approach. Not one solely racing centric but one encouraging the use of the reserves by a wide variety of users. The effect is twofold. Income previously non-existent contributes to the upkeep of the track, grounds and facilities and the clubs’ income. And the racecourses become locally viewed as an important community asset which is hugely beneficial when funds are being sought from public funders.
- Both tracks could continue as training venues and possibly the only Southland locations for workouts and trials. The establishment of facilities to assist with training such as what Wyndham has already undertaken could also be extended. It doesn’t have to be gloom and doom.
- Southern Harness Racing has been an extraordinary success story during a time when racing has not been flourishing as it once did. It has achieved this success without any Club losing it’s identity or uniqueness. However, with just 2.2% of NZ’s population, individual club names get lost in the marketplace so why not embrace Southland’s distinctiveness by all clubs racing under the Southern Harness banner.
- Those of us associated with racing have experience with losses. We know we can’t dwell on the past and we know we have to turn the page if we are to have a future. Have we the necessary courage to do so?
The Person below wished to remain anonymous
- Read your article on Harnesslink and then Mick Guerin’s about Winston Peters being sick of the infighting in the racing industry and it occurred to me that given what Southern Harness has achieved representing the interests of the harness racing clubs, it might be time to expand the approach to include the thoroughbred and greyhound equivalents with the aim being to set up a model to manage all southern racing under a collective umbrella.
- There would be many advantages. For example, given the current and projected shortage of horses, triple code meetings would allow for full fields.
- A streamlined administration would reduce costs.
- A collective southern racing model would set the standard for other regions to follow. In the meantime greater funding would flow through because this is what the funders want to see in terms of a working collaborative approach. Probably some negatives in there as well but entirely surmountable given the right mindset.
- Good time to float the idea while everyone is thinking about the “new normal.”
Editor welcomes further responses.