Michael Smith

The proposed racing industry shake-up could unlock a virtual land-rush in the regions with plans to close race courses a key element of the multi-million-dollar proposal.

Aimed at saving the industry, which is facing a tough future, the Messara Report released by Racing Minister Winston Peters in Hamilton will have economic consequence reaching far out from the industry.

The sale of 20 race courses is likely impact land prices in some areas were property for new housing projects is tight.

The plan foresees the sale of Waikato three key race courses worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

In the Bay of Plenty, Rotorua Race Course is one of 20 venues to lose its racing licence.  The club would in future race at Tauranga under a joint Rotorua-Bay of Plenty Racing Club, if the plan is implemented as expected.

Winston Peters, Minister of Racing, has released the report by Australian businessman John Messara, who conducted an in-depth look at the New Zealand racing industry.  Most of the focus is on the recommendation for three new artificial race tracks and the transfer of betting side of the industry to an Australian entity.

However, one of the key recommendations is that a “Waikato Greenfields Project be developed, effectively self-funded form the sale of Hamilton’s race course at Te Rapa and courses in Te Awamutu and Cambridge.

The report says the sale of the tracks will effectively self-fund new a synthetic racing and training track at Cambridge which will become a new racing venue. 

One source has said that Te Rapa’s prime land (pictured above) could fetch as much as $400 million.  Located at the north of the Hamilton, in an area once regarded as the outskirts of the city, Te Rapa is now surrounded by housing and light industry developments.

“The cost of the Waikato Greenfields Project which will effectively be self-funded from the sale of Te Rapa, Te Awamutu and Cambridge in 2026/27 or soon after, and then making for 27 continuing venues,” the report says.

Like many other regional venues, Rotorua’s Arawa Park’s about 15 hectares is near the centre of the city adjacent to Fenton Street, the main north-south street running through the centre of the city. 

The Rotorua Racing Club’s web site notes: “The park is therefore an extremely visible and valuable piece of land right in the centre of the city.”

However, only about half of the land is owned freehold by the Rotorua Racing Club. “The remainder is owned by the Rotorua District Council on long-term lease to the racing club.”

The leased portion of the park (pictured below) was originally part of a block of land that belonged to six hapū of Ngāti Whakaue. 




Racing industry plan could unleash 'land rush'


The prize money for winners in the racing industry has slumped compared to the costs in recent years.  The proposal to reduce the number of operational clubs and courses aims to boost rewards for winners and reduce the cost of operations.

“The single most effective lever available to reinvigorate the New Zealand thoroughbred industry is prizemoney,” Messara’s says in his report.  “It rewards and supports owners, trainers, jockeys, stable hands, and the entire supply chain including breeders, vets, farriers, feed merchants etc.

“I calculate that the cumulative impact of the reforms recommended in this Review can enable a near doubling of prizemoney in the thoroughbred sector from $59.4 million in 2017/18 to $100 million.

The overall approach to prizemoney has to be aimed at supporting investment and participation in the sport through equitable funding for the lower tiers of racing, while ensuring that aspirations are fuelled by lifting the rewards [in the top- end  races],” Messara says.

Download the full report here

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