Messara recommendations can turn industry around

4 min read
Racing Minister Winston Peters’ worst fears were realised by the most important review ever undertaken of New Zealand’s thoroughbred industry. He commissioned Arrowfield Stud principal and highly-respected administrator John Messara to write the strategic report, which the Minister delivered to a public meeting in Hamilton on Thursday evening.

It’s not too dramatic to say the review’s implementation is viewed by many as racing’s last chance to get it right and a return to more lucrative days. A large crowd gathered in Hamilton on Thursday evening to hear the blueprint for the future.

“Mr Messara’s review delivers a blunt appraisal. He concludes the New Zealand’s racing industry is in a state of serious malaise, and requires urgent reform,” Peters said. “The review also warns thoroughbred horse racing is at a tipping point of irreparable damage.

“Mr Messara’s review delivers a blunt appraisal. He concludes the New Zealand’s racing industry is in a state of serious malaise, and requires urgent reform.” – Winston Peters.

Winston Peter addressing the crowd in Hamilton

“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. The Government will now take the opportunity to fully assess Mr Messara’s report.

“My intention is to have officials produce a Cabinet paper with a set of recommendations for decision. While it is too early to say what Cabinet will agree upon, the severity of the situation means the status quo is unlikely to prevail.

“While it is too early to say what Cabinet will agree upon, the severity of the situation means the status quo is unlikely to prevail.” – Winston Peters.

“Racing is a significant industry built on passionate support. 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.

“The vital signs of the industry are dreadful, but we’re intent on moving forward. Change is challenging and restoration is necessary. It’s reform or die, there is no off-course substitute.”

Racecourses have to go

Among Messara’s main recommendations are slashing the country’s racecourses by nearly half, three synthetic tracks and outsourcing TAB activities to cut costs with a doubling of prizemoney essential for the industry’s well-being.

“I’m deeply distressed by the state of the New Zealand industry,” Messara said in a video link. “I estimate in New Zealand’s case that stakes need to double. The New Zealand industry can have the brighter future it deserves.

John and Kris Messara at Arrowfield

“A reduction in the number of racecourses is an essential part of the overall package and it’s achievable. I look forward to seeing New Zealand racing rise again.”

“A reduction in the number of racecourses is an essential part of the overall package and it’s achievable. I look forward to seeing New Zealand racing rise again.” – John Messara.

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Chief Executive Bernard Saundry called for unity in light of the report. “I think it’s certainly a game-changer and it’s what the industry needs,” he said. “The frame work is well-established now and all participants have to get behind it.

“John has put an awful lot of analysis into his recommendations and it’s important that Government and the industry push it through together. It’s about all parties making a better world for all three codes.”

A question of respect

New Zealand Trainers’ President Tony Pike emphasised how important it was that an identity of Messara’s profile had voiced deep concerns and ways toward a brighter future. “Someone as respected as John has put it all on paper and we have to get behind it and go forward,” he said.

“It’s the first time we’ve got the stars aligned with the Racing Minister and coalition support. John Messara is extremely respected and with the Budget next year the industry has to support the recommendations and drive them through quite quickly.

“We need to get money into the industry. If we don’t follow the recommendations as an industry, we’re pretty much doomed – it’s last chance saloon stuff, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. There was a massive turn-out.”

“If we don’t follow the recommendations as an industry, we’re pretty much doomed – it’s last chance saloon stuff, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.” – Tony Pike

Breeder and owner Les Archer said the bulk of the report’s findings would be supported by participants. “I would say 90 per cent of the people in the industry will get behind 90 percent of the points made.

“There may be questions about support for change and that some clubs will miss out, bit I just think it’s about getting started and implementing the recommendations.”

TDN AusNZ will provide further detailed analysis and comment on the Messara report in our next edition.