Bernard's Blog: 18 Feb 19

Bernard Saundry
18 February 2019

The past week has seen the first raft of meetings as we seek consultation around the recently released Venue Plan.

First cabs off the rank were Riccarton, Wingatui and Gore, with all meetings well attended and providing good vigorous debate. 

I understand that clubs have an emotional attachment to their venue and their race dates based, in most cases, on a long and vibrant history. However, no one disagreed with the fact that we have too many racecourses and, in order to remain sustainable, the industry needs to make changes.

It is not news to those involved in club administration that we are facing ever increasing demands on industry funds. We need to allocate those available funds across fewer venues to produce the best result for the industry.

It was therefore pleasing to hear talk at one meeting of the need to look towards not the next two or three years, but the next 25 to 30 years.

Each region faces its own concerns but in most there was a willingness to work towards a future vision which benefited not just the region but the industry.

The need for a synthetic track at Riccarton was seen as a driver for the evolution of racing in the South Island. Acceptance of synthetic tracks means acceptance that racing in the South Island will look different in the future.

There will be on-going debate as to how best the dates and venues will work for the one-day clubs in Otago before agreement can be reached. But I believe the region will come up with a workable solution, it has reason to be proud of itself with Beaumont, an early adopter of rationalisation, thriving 25 years after shifting its racing to Wingatui.

At the meeting at Gore, representatives of Wyndham, another club which has relocated, stated they have been better off because of that move. 

While in Southland I also took the time to visit the Winton and Riverton tracks and also attended the Invercargill Cup meeting at Ascot Park.

This week I will round off the South Island consultation meetings with visits to Blenheim and Omoto.

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