Messara Report: Battle-lines drawn to save timaru's Phar Lap Raceway

Submissions closed on Friday on the controversial Messara report, which has recommended massive changes to the racing industry in New Zealand, including track closures.

Some have been vocal in their opposition - including the Phar Lap Raceway in South Canterbury, which is vowing to fight.

The Timaru track is among 20 slated for closure, if the racing industry and the Government adopt recommendations outlined in the Messara Report.

The report, released in August by senior Australian racing expert John Messara, recommended the closures begin from the 2019-20 season and take place over five years.

Phar Lap Raceway has hosted gallops and harness racing for more than 150 years, staging about 14 race meetings a year.

The Messara Report has many locals fired up in South Canterbury - they agree that changes are needed, but closing down the Phar Lap Raceway is not one of them.

Phar Lap trustees secretary Richard White is adamant the raceway must remain open.

"I cannot see how the biggest population centre between Christchurch and Dunedin can be left without a racecourse," he said.

They've lodged submissions opposing the closure and demanding proper consultation.

The club's existence is assured to 2022, then, because of a new synthetic track proposed for Riccarton, it will be deemed surplus to requirements.

South Canterbury Racing chairman Noel Walker said they would not give up without a fight.

"We are not going to roll over," he said.

"I hope we get a hearing and these just don't get biffed, and we need someone to look at the course properly."

In South Canterbury, they say Australians tried to claim Phar Lap as one of their own and now an Aussie's trying to close down the track named after him.

The battle-lines are drawn.


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