Bernard's Blog: 14 Jun 19

Bernard Saundry
14 June 2019

Where would racing be without the volunteers?  It is a refrain I often hear and, as I move around the country meeting with the enthusiastic and dedicated people who give freely of their time to the running of our clubs, I am in awe of their selflessness.

Next week, 16-22 June, is National Volunteer Week where the 1.2 million volunteers around the country are recognised.  This year’s theme is Whiria te tangata – weaving the people together.

It is an opportune time to acknowledge the 4,763 volunteers who are active within the thoroughbred industry.  Most of our clubs are run on the sweat of volunteers who do everything from putting back tracks and moving running rails, to deliberating around board tables and determining the future direction of their respective clubs.  Sometimes the two areas are not mutually exclusive, depending upon the size of the club.

New Zealand has a long history of volunteer service within the racing industry, but I do hear from clubs that it is getting more and more difficult to find people willing to service on committees.  Our volunteer base is also aging which leaves some clubs reliant on the contributions made by those of, or past, retirement age.

I would encourage any younger person wanting to get involved in the future of our industry to consider putting themselves forward the next time their local club is seeking volunteers.  It may well become a life-long commitment!

While there are many stories of those filling volunteer positions on committees going above and beyond the call of duty, there are few which compare with one I was recently told about the early days of the Wellington Racing Club.

Eric Riddiford, who was the club’s president from 1932-1948, went as far as to mortgage his annual wool clip to the bank to guarantee the club’s stakes during shaky financial times.  His commitment to the continuing future of the club was acknowledged, up until quite recently, through the Eric Riddiford Steeplechase.

During the next week, if you get a chance to attend a race meeting around the country, do take a minute to think about the unpaid hours which go into keeping our industry ticking over.  And, if you feel at all inspired to contribute yourself then get involved in your local club membership and put yourself forward to help out.

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