Thousands flock to Hokitika Races

Thousands of people have celebrated what could be the end of one of the South Island's most historic gallops, now in its 154th year.

Many came to Hokitika for their first time and potentially last race day - with the race track in jeopardy from the racing industry review.

Local Grant Growcott says it’s part of West Coast Tradition.

But the Hokitika Race track is a victim of the Government's review of the racing industry.

The report by Australian racing expert John Messara recommends slashing the number of tracks across the country from 48 to just 28.

The West Coast race circuit of Hokitika, Reefton and Greymouth are all earmarked for the chop.

"Quite candidly, the racing would be finished here. The concept of having one course is unworkable," Westland Racing Club president, Gray Eatwell says.

Locals are also adamant, it's something they can't afford to lose

"If you don't have this track, it affects the whole coast" Shaun Fahey says.

Assets owned by the clubs, would be seized by the Government, sold and used to fund the remaining tracks.

Gray Eatwell says it's a bankrupt concept and country clubs aren't costing the industry the problem.

"We don't cost the industry, most of our tracks are run by volunteers. To take away from us to put into bigger tracks that are struggling that already losing money doesn’t make any sense at all," Gray Eatwell says.

The club owns the race track, and Mr Eatwell says introducing Government legislation to seize assets would have huge ramifications.

"I think that sort of action at Government level, it would be political suicide."

It's a concept also angering the community.

Dave Craib has lived in Hokitika since 1980 and says he doesn’t agree with the racing industry taking the money.

"It's owned by the Hokitika Jockey club, and the money should go back to whoever owns it not into the industry, it's not for the industry to take."

Jacqui Paterson also says it would be disappointing for the community and local businesses would also suffer financially.

"This is run by the club, this is maintained by the club. It's not maintained by the TAB or Racing New Zealand."

"They're the people that raise the money and put the time and effort into it so they're going to fight. They'll fight for this because it's really important." 

The government is currently assessing more than 1600 submissions made on the report.

The Minister of racing Winston Peters will be advised and he will make an announcement in due course.

Meanwhile, Westland Racing, is urging the Government to use their common sense and implement a better business model that doesn't affect country clubs over metro clubs.  

"Comparing our structure with them, it's not apples for apples. It's like comparing apples with elephants eggs," Mr Eatwell says.

"It's about people, we're all about people it's not actually just racing. We're not actually an industry, we're a community, we're a professional sport."

With the future unknown, Hokitika locals are vowing to fight for their beloved race track, refusing to accept the fact it could shut.

"It's not something we're even prepared to contemplate at this point in time," Mr Eatwell says.