In the midst of recovery from Cyclone Gabrielle, Hawke’s Bay Racing is showing that they are much more than an organisation for racing horses.
Since the cyclone devastated the Hawke’s Bay region a week ago, Hastings racecourse has become an important centre for the community, helping people and animals recover, and providing a base to help clean-up efforts.
Hastings was due to hold a race meeting on Sunday February 19 but decided once the decision was made to abandon that day that the focus should be on helping the community.
“It wouldn’t really have been the right thing to do to be running a race meeting while everyone’s attention is on trying to respond and help each other in the community,” Hawke’s Bay Racing chief executive Aaron Hamilton said.
“Once we had the abandonment, we turned our focus to the support and response, to play our part for Hawke’s Bay, to make sure we’re getting utilised and not sitting idle.
“Whilst we’re doing a great thing for the human side and the animals, we’re also doing our bit for the community here as well. We’re showing that racecourses do more than just hold racing. We’re a massive community asset and we’re here to support this response however we can.”
Hastings racecourse came out relatively unscathed from Gabrielle, barring a few leaks. The first task was to help displaced people who were without power and food, serving some meals and offering showers and wireless internet for locals.
As power has been gradually restored, the focus has been on other activities. A clothing distribution centre has been set up, as has an animal shelter.
“There’s been quite a bit of traction, especially around the animal shelter, which has taken off quite massively,” Hamilton said.
“We’re getting dogs, cats, pigeons, goldfish – you name it, we’ve got it here really.”
With most people in rural communities helping each other out with livestock accommodation, it’s been mainly urban residents who have been benefiting from the shelter.
“We’ve got animals coming in from people who’ve had their houses red-stickered. They have got to find temporary accommodation somewhere, so they might be put in a shelter for people that don’t accept pets.
“In those cases, they’ve been able to accommodate their pets here while they’re in temporary accommodation, and when they’re ready to move, they’ll be reunited with their pets again.”
In addition, the animal shelter has been getting animals that have become separated from their owners during the floods.
“We’ve had dogs found on the side of the road covered in mud, and they have been brought to the shelter, cleaned up and housed, and the shelter will then try to find their owners.
“For most of the animals the owners have fortunately been found, but we were on media this morning saying we’re trying to find the owners of five goldfish, so if anyone’s lost five goldfish, we might have them.”
The racecourse also received a large refrigerator in the past day to store dog food which has been helicoptered out to people unable to get in to the racecourse.
In addition, the Defence Force has set itself up at the track as a base as it gets ready to help with the clean-up.
Hastings is next due to host a raceday on Wednesday March 1, where the Gr.2 Little Avondale Stud Lowland Stakes (2100m) is due to be held.
Hamilton said there should not be any difficulties in staging that race meeting barring something unexpected, and they were looking at ways to make it an event to help bring residents together.
“We want to make sure that one of the benefits is to have something for our trainers to look forward to. They’re still working their horses and it gives them an opportunity to race, and it gives an opportunity for the community to come together as well,” he said.
“It’s not really the right time to be selling hospitality packages. It’s more about the community and we want to make sure that the race meeting is community focused.” – NZ Racing Desk