The much anticipated Messara Report into the state of the New Zealand racing industry has been released and the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders Association (NZTBA) fully supports the changes recommended.
The Minister of Racing Winston Peters presented the report in Hamilton last night to a large audience of industry participants and supporters, and it outlined 17 key recommendations for change.
He recognised that the industry was in a precarious state and it was “reform or die”.
“Mr Messara’s review delivers a blunt appraisal. He concludes the New Zealand’s racing industry is in a state of serious malaise, and requires urgent reform. The review also warns thoroughbred horse racing is at a tipping point of irreparable damage,” said Mr Peters.
“It confirms what many of us have been worried about for a number of years and highlights the need for the industry to turn itself around.”
“The Government will now take the opportunity to fully assess Mr Messara’s report. My intention is to have officials produce a Cabinet paper with a set of recommendations for decision. While it is too early to say what Cabinet will agree upon, the severity of the situation means the status quo is unlikely to prevail.”
“As this review identifies, a complex task lies ahead and for that reason Cabinet will also consider establishing a transition agency to help guide the process, particularly if there are changes to racing governance,” he said.
NZTBA President John Fokerd applauds the report.
“It’s a very sound report even though the changes are dramatic,” said Fokerd, “and I would urge you all too thoroughly read the report it makes interesting reading.
“The NZTBA support the 17 recommendations and the changes proposed, and we are looking forward to playing a positive role in the implementation of the changes.
“It was a great decision by the Minister to appoint John Messara and we at the NZTBA appreciate the time and effort John Messara has put into this report.”
The 17 recommendations are listed below along with a link to the full report.
1. Change the governance structure, so the NZRB becomes Wagering NZ with racing responsibilities devolving to the individual Codes. This will sharpen the commercial focus of TAB operations and improve the decision-making and accountability of the Codes.
2. Establish Racing NZ as a consultative forum for the three Codes to agree on issues such as entering into commercial agreements with Wagering NZ, approving betting rules and budgets for the integrity bodies, equine health & research, etc.
3. Change the composition and qualifications for directors of regulatory bodies.
4. Request that a Performance and Efficiency Audit of the NZRB be initiated under section 14 of the Racing Act 2003, with particular emphasis on the operating costs of the NZRB.
5. Amend the Section 16 distribution formula of the Racing Act 2003 to a more equitable basis for fixed 10-year terms.
6. Initiate a special review of the structure and efficacy of the RIU and allied integrity bodies, to be conducted by an independent qualified person.
7. Begin negotiations for the outsourcing of the TAB’s commercial activities to an international wagering operator, to gain the significant advantages of scale.
8. Seek approval for a suite of new wagering products to increase funding for the industry.
9. Confirm the assignment of Intellectual Property (IP) by the Clubs to the Codes.
10. Introduce Race Field and Point Of Consumption Tax legislation expeditiously. These two measures will bring New Zealand’s racing industry into line with its Australian counterparts and provide much needed additional revenue.
11. Repeal the existing betting levy of approximately $13 million per annum paid by the NZRB, given that the thoroughbred Code is a loss maker overall, with the net owners’ losses outweighing the NZRB’s net profit.
12. Clarify legislation to vest Race Club property and assets to the Code regulatory bodies for the benefit of the industry as a whole.
13. Reduce the number of thoroughbred race tracks from 48 to 28 tracks under a scheduled program. This does not require the closure of any Club.
14. Upgrade the facilities and tracks of the remaining racecourses with funds generated from the sale of surplus property resulting from track closures to provide a streamlined, modern and competitive thoroughbred racing sector capable of marketing itself globally.
15. Construct three synthetic all-weather tracks at Cambridge, Awapuni & Riccarton with assistance from the New Zealand Government’s Provincial Growth Fund. Support the development of the Waikato Greenfields Project.
16. Introduce robust processes to establish traceability from birth and the re-homing of the entire thoroughbred herd, as the foundation stone of the industry’s ongoing animal welfare program.
17. Increase thoroughbred prizemoney gradually to over $100 million per annum through a simplified three-tier racing model, with payments extended to tenth place in all races. - Michelle Saba