Racing Industry in Crisis
New Conservative Racing Spokesman, Lachie Ashton, calls for a commission of inquiry into the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA), the New Zealand Racing Board (NZRB) and the Racing Integrity Unity (RIU) following twenty years of poor management that has left the industry in crisis. He wants commissioners appointed by the industry to take over the management of the RITA and the RIU immediately and is calling for Winston Peters to stand down as Minister of Racing.
"The government’s cash injection on the 12th May was nothing more than a bailout for an insolvent RITA following years of clueless leadership appointed under a system of “jobs for the boys” without suitable experience or qualifications and with the ability to pay themselves far more than they are worth," says Ashton.
The scope of the inquiry needs to go back at least 12 years so that lessons can be learnt in how to better manage and restructure the industry going forward. It is also necessary to hold to account those who have not served the industry well and to purge the industry of the underperformers that remain.
NZRB/RITA have gone from approximately $104 million in equity to insolvency in 12 years. Their 2019 report shows a loss of $28.5 million, up from $15.8 million in 2018. Total equity was $24.9 million, down from $53.5 million in 2018. RITA’s mid-year report is overdue.
The 2019 report shows 136 staff earning over $100,000 with a wage bill of $61.5 million a year averaging out at $1,182,750 a week. About $22,500 a week was spent on consultants and $54,000 a week on travel and accommodation. The 2019 report had over $2 million of unexplained expenses, or on average $39,365 a week.
A crucial part of the enquiry needs to be focussed on RITA’s decision to spend a reported $50 million on a new betting platform and the services of Paddy Power Betfair for $17 million a year when there were far better options available. The platform is expensive and not well liked, with punters choosing to use other betting platforms, resulting in a loss of revenue for the industry.
The Racing Integrity Unit has also failed the industry with doping of horses and corrupt practices still rife in the industry. There appears to be a lack of investigation, follow-through and enforcement. Questions need to be asked as to why the practice of blood spinning of horses was allowed and Equine Blood Solutions NZ Ltd to operate.
Just like RITA, the RIU needs to be immediately managed by commissioners to purge and rebuild the organisation and get the resources and legislation they need to stamp out cheaters who are robbing honest trainers, owners, horsemen and jockeys of well deserved wins and prize money, and causing a long suffering public to be duped. Cheating is a big factor in industry decline and has to be stopped.
“New Conservative supports the current effort by the industry to restructure, but not the draconian move by the Racing Minister to force industry change through RITA. Instead the decisions should be made by industry and government appointed commissioners with a right of appeal for clubs who can justify such an appeal,” says Ashton. “New Conservative would not support the demise of country and picnic racing that can be run profitably and safely and is popular over the holiday season.”
The Racing Act needs to be amended to recognise the rightful ownership of the TAB and the Intellectual Property of the New Zealand Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing industry. New Conservative also supports self-governance of the industry, with the inclusion of qualified government appointed representatives to the governing body to bridge the gap between the codes and overcome deadlocks.