Gallop South calls for justice through constitutional change

The popular Easter race meeting at Riverton

by Brian de Lore
Published 1st September 2020

The growing discontent in the deep south is now echoing through the committee rooms of many New Zealand race clubs residing outside the metropolitan areas. And Gallop South has taken a determined step forward in seeking a significant change in the New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) Constitution.

Gallop South Incorporated, last week sent a memorandum to all race clubs and sector members with a proposal attached to amend the NZTR Constitution to give the stakeholders of the industry what they believe a more equitable and fairer structure of governance.

Gallop South represents the Beaumont Racing Club, Central Otago Racing Club, Gore Racing Club, Kurow Jockey Club, Riverton Racing Club, Tapanui Racing Club, Waikouaiti Racing Club, Wairio Jockey Club, Winton Jockey Club, and Wyndham Racing Club.

The problem for Gallop South and its army of supporters in other jurisdictions is that the devolving of powers from the New Zealand Racing Board (NZRB) down to the codes, as per the Racing Industry Act 2020, has also handed NZTR full control of the race club assets with the clubs devoid of voice at board level.

When eighty-five percent of 1,700 submissions supported the Messara Review in October 2018, it was for full adoption of the 17 recommendations as a suite of interconnected solutions reliant on each other for an overall benefit, but we know that never happened. RITA and the DIA cherry-picked the recommendations, which included venue rationalisation or as the clubs labelled it, the ‘land-grab.’

…NZTR not representative of the stakeholders

The new legislation gives the power back to the codes, which theoretically should be a positive step forward for future governance. But the argument is that the thoroughbred code (NZTR) has evolved into something not representative of the stakeholders of thoroughbred racing, and Gallop South is leading the charge to change that anomaly.

The ‘them and us’ stand-off that existed between the old Racing Board and NZTR cannot be allowed to pass down to a 2020 stand-off between NZTR and the stakeholders of racing – the clubs and sector groups represent the heart and soul of the industry, which is the very reason we have a body called NZTR.

If a stand-off does develop, it’s because one group wants what’s best for everyone in racing, and the other what’s best for the privileged few and their patch. Gallop South makes the point that the NZ in the acronym stands for New Zealand (meaning all of New Zealand) and not Northern Zone as they believe some would have you think.

Consider the ‘great leap backwards’ that New Zealand Racing has taken in the past dozen years. The single-most contributing factor was bringing in people ill-qualified for overpaid jobs, and those people have come mainly from political appointments via the Minister of Racing.

Government interference costly

If racing thinks it should be feeling grateful because the current Minister of Racing recently slipped $50 million into the coffers to keep the industry afloat, it shouldn’t. Government interference with their political appointments has cost the thoroughbred industry fives time that figure. They are still in arrears.

Government is not entirely to blame, though, because the apathy of the racing community borders on pathetic. Leadership has been absent with an inability to rally the racing troops, collectively sing a song of demands, and go into battle with the mindset of Vlad the Impaler. Instead, the resistance movement came with powder puff intensity. Why haven’t we taken a leaf from the V’landy book of ruling with strength?

If that alone isn’t a reason to seek improved governance, then what is? Poor governance has been the downfall of this once great industry, and while a glimmer of hope has come with new legislation, everyone should remember only good people will turn around racing’s fortunes. Six years ago, we had $75 million in cash and assets, and now the TAB owes the ASB $45 million – did you notice no one wants to talk about that?

Why do you think RITA hasn’t posted a full half-year report ended January 31st with a full balance sheet?  Simple answer: It looks dreadful. RITA answers only to the Minister of Racing who will not be looking to release any bad news stories before the October election.

Gallop South Incorporated has support for a change in the NZTR Constitution throughout New Zealand because it would provide the opportunity for a voice that represents every club from Whangarei to the length and breadth of the country.  

Gallop South: There is a groundswell of opinion amongst clubs to amend the Constitution

Its memorandum on Friday stated: “There is a groundswell of opinion amongst clubs to amend New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Incorporated’s (“NZTR”) Constitution to change the composition of the Board to a more regional representative model.

“With the passing of the Racing Industry Act 2020 (the “Act”) into law, each Code Governing Body has a greater role in decision making that affects club assets, dates, funding, etc. To make informed decisions, the NZTR Board needs input from all regions and from members with local knowledge and racing experience.

“NZTR has control of club assets, yet at the moment no club has any input or voting rights as to the selection of the NZTR Board

“It must be stressed this is not a criticism of NZTR’s Board or Members Council. Both have worked well under the current Constitution, but now is the time to consider a change.”

A full proposal for changes to the Constitution was attached to the letter and clubs were asked to provide feedback by September 30th. In part, it included the following:

Gallop South diplomatically says it’s not a criticism of NZTR personnel, but it’s obviously suggesting NZTR’s method of appointing board members in light of the new legislation is outdated and unfair, is far from representative of the stakeholders, and requires a major panel beating job to get it roadworthy for an industry that’s on the bones of its financial backside.

Racing as a whole should not have a problem with change if a better system of the administrative process can be written into the Constitution. If a genuine improvement is available and opposition to it is forthcoming, the reason for objections might only represent expressions of self-interest.

On Tuesday of last week, Gallop South General manager Jo Gordon sent a letter of concern to NZTR Chair Alan Jackson, arising from the cancellation of the NZTR Roadshow due to COVID-19, and thus the loss of a forum for a discussion on those concerns.

In another letter on Friday to club managers, Gallop South said:

“With the passing of the new Bill into law, each Code Governing Body has a greater role in decision making that affects club assets, dates, funding etc., and to make informed decisions the Board of NZTR needs input from all regions from members with local knowledge and experience.

“…yet no club has any input or voting rights in the appointment process…” – Gallop South

“NZTR has full control of club assets (section 21[1] of the Act) yet no club has any input or voting rights in the appointment process of the board. This proposal addresses that situation by amending the NZTR Constitution.

“Gallop South Inc. intends promoting a resolution at the next Annual Meeting or Special General Meeting to amend the Constitution but before doing so would like feedback from clubs.”

Also on Friday, an NZTR Media Release stated that Chair Alan Jackson would be retiring from the NZTR at the AGM in November. The final paragraph of that release stated: “The Members’ Council will incorporate seeking a replacement to fill the vacancy left by Dr. Jackson’s retirement as part of the selection process around other rotating and retiring directors.”

If Gallop South and supporting clubs achieve their goal, however, the Members’ Council will be abolished, and an entirely new NZTR board will be up for election.

A battle may be looming.


Quote of the Week:

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” – Winston Churchill

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