New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) has welcomed the findings of the Messara Report into the state of thoroughbred racing in New Zealand.
“It’s time for change. We believe this report will create a blueprint for a thriving thoroughbred industry,” NZTR Chairman, Dr Alan Jackson, said.
“While our Board has yet to consider the report in detail, the major recommendations are in line with NZTR’s views and it is reassuring to have those policies verified by an independent and expert voice.
“But implementing the report will still require a considerable amount of work and investment,” Jackson said. “We need to work with the Government, the New Zealand Racing Board (NZRB) and the Racing Industry Transition Agency to ensure that this opportunity is not wasted.
“We are confident that racing has a bright future in New Zealand but real change and brave leadership will be required if we are to achieve the report’s target of doubling prize money.
“We are at the cross-roads in terms of sustainability and we need to move quickly. It’s a heavily regulated industry and it is vital that any recommended changes to the Racing Act are put in place as soon as practicable, to allow each Code to achieve their potential.
“The current wagering business model is under severe competitive pressure, and we need additional income streams and reduced costs if thoroughbred racing’s share is to grow.”
NZTR endorsed the Messara Report recommendation that the NZRB outsources much of the TAB’s commercial operations.
“This is something NZTR has been advocating for some time,” Jackson said. Multiple pieces of work, which NZTR had been involved with or undertaken, had shown that an outsourcing arrangement would provide significant financial gains.
“This is one way of overcoming a lack of scale, which has made it increasingly difficult for the NZ TAB to operate in what is now a highly competitive wagering market.”
The argument for outsourcing had also been strengthened by changes to the international regulatory environment, which had not been anticipated at the time of the NZRB’s current strategy.
NZTR also welcomed the recommendations in the Messara Report on synthetic tracks and racing venues. “NZTR has been undertaking its own venue review and has come to similar conclusions,” Jackson said.
“While there will always be a place for each club, it has been obvious for some time that the industry cannot sustain the current number of venues.
“Infrastructure spending needs to be lifted. Many of our strategic tracks require significant investment but if we attempt to retain the current number of venues, there is a risk that the infrastructure spending will be spread too thinly.
“Synthetic tracks will play a key role in providing consistent and reliable surfaces and will ease the pressure on the main turf tracks.
“The recommendations in the Messara report are a pathway to a major uplift in our sector’s economic performance and contribution to New Zealand,” Jackson said. “But there is a lot of detail to consider and we are pleased that the Government has pledged to consult further with the industry.
“Our sport has had a significant economic and social impact on New Zealand. It sustains more than 14,000 full-time equivalent jobs, has over 55,000 participants and generates more than $1.6 billion in value-added contribution to the New Zealand economy.
“The thoroughbred code, alone, has 16,000 owners, 3700 breeders and 1000 trainers and generates more than 9000 FTE jobs, plus volunteers.”