Garry’s Corner – 17 December 2019

Gary's Corner

With Christmas around the corner, the Waikato Newsletter is on hold, but the weeks happenings have motivated me to come out of hiding in the corner.

It is always difficult to those who were not part of the past to see the merit in what, if anything, the past has to offer.

Prior to the founding of the Racing Board, the codes were by and large responsible for the running of their business. The TAB had its own Board, the financial result of their endeavours was controlled by the Racing Authority and these two Boards were small with a significant crossover of Board Members. The effect of this relationship was not dissimilar to our previous merged Board, which was the result of the 2003 legislation. The major difference was the allocation of the funding was determined by legislated allocations of the income to specific accounts e.g. say 3cents of the dollar to the amenities account etc. This in effect made the role of the Authority straightforward as there was no discretion; the irony was if there was a need in one area and funds were held in a specific account, the funds could not be used for the best end use for the industry.

The change in the late 1980’s gave the new Racing Board this discretion, this change creates a whole new responsibility and a new debate between codes and the Board as to best the end use of funds.

The 1987 share market crash was as you would expect, a difficult time for the industry which the then Board kept afloat with the dissipation of any reserves, although I was not part of the Board so I cannot comment on the difficulties they were confronted with.

Upon my appointment to the Chair of the Board, there had been no opportunity to replenish reserves and the Codes were deeply involved in balancing the best way forward. This involved the collection of the Chief Executives of the Codes and their Chief Financial Officers to meet with the Executives of both the TAB and the Racing Board to plot the best way forward. I won’t dwell on the details of the week they spent together, except to say the TAB committed to a guaranteed 8% of their gross turnover to the industry. This was the first occasion the TAB had subjected themselves to a benchmark based on the current turnover, excluding sports betting, that would be $160m. Not too far away from current RITA predictions, but this was prior to Winston’s abolition of the wagering duty currently the equivalent of $45m, plus the potential Race fields benefit of a further $15m. It is this black hole of $60m lost to administration that has created the situation we are in.

Why bother repeating this? Well, it would seem we, that is you and I; as previous or current club administrators and previous board members are being held accountable. I am not sure who is advising the Minister on part two of the legislation before the House: but the tenure of the Bill giving whoever the Minister may be sweeping opportunities to, to interfere in all aspects of our business, shows a complete misunderstanding of the people who have held the clubs and codes together for over one hundred years.

Yes, when you involve a cross section of people you will be blessed with the odd idiot, somewhat similar to Parliament, the difference is the percentage of those with ability far outweigh those cocooned in Wellington. Over the years, the capable people who have contributed for nothing is outstanding. You see, it would seem we are being held accountable for the Black Hole.

Where the 2003 act came unstuck was the four so-called independents, these people were to be appointed after due consultation with the codes. It would seem with the appointment of the National Party Board person the process was not clear cut, as evidenced by the last appointment to that board.

So Winston, what is the end result of your endeavours? Well you know my appreciation of the improved financial opportunities you have been responsible for, but to believe the people of this industry will understand your proposed change in control of our future suggests you have been very badly advised. I have spoken to RITA board Members and nobody wants to put up their hand. “No”, they say, “this has come from the DIA”; I don’t give a damn where it’s come from, it is bad advice!

When I asked one of my succeeding Chairman of the Racing Board; why he had accepted the position bearing in mind how busy he was, he suggested it would be a walk in the park, my advice was if you can’t work with them it will be you doing the walking.

The change in accountability probably started with the abolition of District Committees, their Chairpersons represented their regions. The election of a local Chairperson was a competitive process; they were held accountable. I had the privilege of being Chairman of the Awapuni Partnership, the Whanganui /Manawatu District Committee and the NZ Racing Board. Never did I believe I was accountable to any other than those who did and still do, put their heart and soul into racing.

Just as aside to the two of you, there is an ill-informed writer who describes my involvement in the 2003 Racing Bill as disastrous, well just for the record; I had no involvement having retired some two years earlier. However, had I been involved I would have fought against a Board dominated by people with no knowledge or experience in racing.

Finally, as this is it for the year; you only had to watch Nathan Guy during the second reading of the Racing Bill to understand why we had no hope under a National. His lack of understanding of the Bill was embarrassing.

Have a good racing Christmas, nail every MP the two of you can and remind them this is our industry!

Cheers Garry

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