Messara report confirms worst fears of NZ racing industry

Racing Minister Winston Peters has officially released the much-anticipated review into the NZ racing industry, recommending radical changes to how the three codes operate.

Mr Peters confirmed the report by Australian racing guru John Messara was a "blunt appraisal" into the industry on this side of the Tasman, which required "urgent reform".

"The review also warns thoroughbred horse-racing is at a tipping point of irreparable damage," he said.

"It confirms what many of us have been worried about for a number of years and highlights the need for the industry to turn itself around." 

Mr Peters said the next step would be for officials to prepare a cabinet paper with recommendations designed to save the industry, which comprises thoroughbread, harness and greyhound racing.

Among the report's recommendations were:

  • Outsourcing the TAB's commercial activities to an international operator
  • Reducing the number of thoroughbred racetracks from 48 to 28
  • Constructing three new new all-weather tracks at Cambridge, Awapuni and Riccarton 

"Racing is a significant industry built on passionate support," said Mr Peters. "It has created an industry with $1.6 billion to GDP annually and is a major employer.

"As a nation, we should nurture this industry and grow it into something even greater.

"On behalf of the Government, I wish to thank Mr Messara for his work and making his expertise available. He has a proven track record in reforming New South Wales racing and his advice is immensely valuable for the New Zealan industry." 

Mr Messara addressed his report via video and confirmed that his research showed those interviewed recognised the need for far-reaching reform to re-invigorate the industry.

"The deeply distressed state of New Zealand's racing industry quickly became evident to us, as did the resilience and dedication of those who work and invest in it," said Mr Messara.

"This gives me the confidence that comprehensive action by the Minister will be strongly supported by you all and that the New Zealand industry can have the much brighter future it deserves." 

He identified prizemoney as the greatest influencer on the state of racing and estimated stakes would need to double, if New Zealand was to become a competitive player on the international market.

"However prizemoney has to be funded by recurring revenue," he said. "My review includes a series of reforms that I believe will enable a doubling of stakes money.

"And that increase needs to be right through the system - from the smallest races right up to the group and listed programme. We need to keep people in the game."

Mr Messara made a total of 17 recommendations in his report.