Racing industry demands changes to NZTR structure

John Costello’s article in Bloodhorse Magazine in December 1996 when he described the changes made by Racing Industry Board Chairman Garry Chittick as watershed in New Zealand racing

Racing can’t sit on its hands and wait forever – we have the legislation; it won’t happen on its own!

by Brian de Lore
Published 9th August 2020

Moves are afoot; the winds of change are airborne. The Racing Bill of 2020 has been passed into law, and the changes in the new legislation have opened the door for positive change, and perhaps some people now need to step aside and make way for a new thoroughbred racing code beginning.

A burgeoning groundswell of supporters familiar with the new legislation are gathering and now calling for significant structural changes to NZTR that will reinvolve the industry through the clubs and the regions – give the industry back to the stakeholders and participants to determine their own future.

The feeling is that NZTR in its current regulatory form is no longer fit for purpose and the industry should once again come together and reorganise itself for fairer board representation, greater transparency and improved lines of communication.

The Racing Minister himself alluded to future change in a press release on June 25th, which stated: “For too long our domestic racing industry has been left to fade into obscurity at the expense of jobs and the passionate people and communities that support it.”

Winston Peters: With this Bill, responsibility for the future growth of the industry sits with the people who know it best

“The Coalition Government has now delivered on its promise to create a framework that enables the industry to take the reins and move itself forward. With this Bill, responsibility for the future growth of the industry sits with the people who know it best,” said Mr Peters.

The Minister also said: “With the passing of the Bill the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA) will be dissolved. TAB NZ will be established as the commercial betting operator, while administrative functions will be devolved to the three racing codes.

“The changes were welcomed, and are consistent with the overall intent of the reforms, namely to give the industry the tools to better manage itself,” said Mr Peters.

Driving the movement to invoke the intent of the Winston Peters press release is former Racing Industry Board Chair Garry Chittick. Years ago, he brought in positive industry changes that the late and great John Costello highlighted in a New Zealand Bloodhorse magazine, dated December 1996. Costello described it as watershed in New Zealand racing.

Garry Chittick is calling for the abolition of the Members’ Council

Chittick is calling for the abolition of the Members’ Council, and that a new NZTR board be drawn from regional representation which is the way things used to happen under the New Zealand Racing Conference in the days before the Racing Act of 2003 became law and initiated the gradual decline in racing’s health. That decline has accelerated markedly over the past dozen years.

Speaking to The Optimist this week, Chittick said he had already had discussions with NZTR Chair Alan Jackson about changing the board structure and was subsequently disappointed when the industry supported plan was not tabled at last NZTR board meeting.

He said: “The passing of the new racing act is something for which we have to be very grateful to the Minister, not just for the industry to run itself but for the changes to get the POC (Point of Consumption), and racefields, and the elimination of the betting duty – there is no question the Minister has done the best he possibly could for us.

“The initial draft of the legislation was clearly not in the industry’s best interests, and fortunately for us, the Select Committee recognised that and the Minister took due cognisance of that indifference and signed off the changes. So we now have a situation where the responsibility for the industry has landed back on the people at the coalface like it used to be 20 years ago.

The industry is calling for change at NZTR – Garry Chittick

“The industry is calling for change,” continued Chittick, “and if this doesn’t come up, and the industry wants to have a vote on how the board is created, then fine, it will happen.

So how does Garry Chittick summarise the past performance of the NZTR board and how does he see it in 2020?

“I have no personal gripe with the performance of the NZTR board under the previous legislation because I believe it was difficult for them to function because, from 2003 onwards, the NZRB board didn’t only believe their role was wagering, but a wagering and run-racing role, which meant you had two organisations trying to run racing. Quite clearly that didn’t work.

“Whereas, under the 2020 legislation, we are going to have an independent wagering board, and the responsibility of running racing has been handed back to the racing people – the racing industry generally – meaning all three codes. Accordingly, my belief is that the existing structure of NZTR will not function correctly.

“I have no criticism on how they have functioned previously because they have been completely stymied by the previous NZRB board, and how they were allowed to act.

“And that was the failing because they had no skills to run racing…”

We had the CEO and the independent chairperson on NZRB board come out and say ‘they’re running racing.’ And that was the failing because they had no skills to run racing which the evidence clearly shows.

“And the changes made from the first draft to the second reading of the 2020 legislation is saying that racing needs to be run by people who understand racing. Accordingly, the NZTR board, and the process on how it’s appointed, needs to be restructured because if we are going to be held accountable for what’s good and bad in the future, then we need to be in a position to affect that decision-making process with regional representatives.

Now on a roll, Chittick continued, “Not only do I believe a full review of NZTR is imperative, but I have also canvassed industry people to seek the support of others to bring about change.

“I am so encouraged by the industry support for change that if a remit was required for a motion to be moved at the annual meeting of NZTR, I am very confident the remit from the members would request a change in the structure – I am absolutely confident we are way past any voting requirement in terms of numbers required.

Garry Chittick: The only two clubs that I haven’t got confirmation from at this point in time are Waikato and Auckland

“The only two clubs that I haven’t got confirmation from at this point in time are Waikato and Auckland. I have raised the issue with Waikato Racing Club President Karyn Fenton-Ellis on more than one occasion, and she certainly appears supportive, but confirmation hasn’t come back from the Waikato committee.

“A few people have suggested to me that the industry still needs a Members Council to sit in judgement of who will be on the board, but I don’t agree with that.

“I’m in total disagreement because if we have regional representation as we had when in the days of the NZ Racing Conference, the calibre of the people elected from the regions onto the Conference was outstanding – they were all exceptional people in their own field.

I remember as a young man, I was quite intimidated when I first sat amongst these highly knowledgeable people, but learned a lot from them, so I have absolute confidence that if the regions are asked to find the right people in their jurisdiction – they will. The calbre of person elected when it was NZRC was never disappointing.

“What I am saying is that we need a fairer spread of representation”

“I’m not saying that the people elected by the Members’Council are not capable. What I am saying is that we need a fairer spread of representation, and we are struggling to get people to come forward because of their understanding of knowing how the Members’ Council functions.

“Also, if the regions are given the opportunity, they will understand the importance of it and will make sure the right people are selected onto the board.

“Having canvassed a significant cross-section of New Zealand racing people, and having put a lot of thought into it and talking to administrators, I have an idea of how it would be done although the nuts and bolts in the detail can be fine-tuned.

“My view is that representation should be divided into five industry regions– three from the North Island – south of Taupo, Waikato and Auckland, and two from the South Island – one for Canterbury/West Coast and one for the rest of the south.

“In addition, I strongly believe there should also be three independents who would be nominated and appointed by the five regional members on the board. That way, you can accommodate the particular skills that are required. The Chair would be appointed from within the board, and there is no reason why it couldn’t be one of the independents.”

On the obvious question of how the current board and Members Council will collectively react to the proposal, Chittick was deliberate in answering:

“No one who is supportive of the concept is trying to pick a fight” – Garry Chittick

“No one who is supportive of the concept is trying to pick a fight. We are promoting this to achieve the best result for the racing industry under the new Act – the Act is asking us to do this; it’s asking the codes to run their business, and for the codes to run this business properly they require access to greater industry representation.

“We need more dialogue in racing, which we used to have when it was regional under the Racing Conference system. When I was appointed to represent the Manawatu/Wanganui region, the voting was counted per race day allocation and I don’t see any reason not to reintroduce that – even though the big clubs have more weight, there are plenty of small clubs around to be adequately represented.

“Back in the day when selecting these regional representatives it was always a contest, so very rarely did the wrong person get the board appointment.

Garry Chittick: Racing is only going to survive if the people who are at the coalface are encouraged enough to stay there.

“People in racing are looking for a better deal and they are owed a better deal. The overwhelming reaction is positive for this change. The only objections is not about what we are aspiring to do but the technical side of how we might do it – the nuts and bolts.

“My view is that the process should be commenced now, bearing in mind that if it was put to the vote it would pass overwhelmingly. It should be driven by the NZTR board as quickly as possible so we can address it and implement the changes at the next annual meeting. Otherwise, it will be fobbed-off, and we will see it dragged on for another year or 18 months.

“If the NZTR board don’t support it, it will go to the vote.”


Clause 22 of the NZTR Constitution

22.  Alterations to Constitution This Constitution may be rescinded, amended or added to only by resolution in that behalf passed by a three-fifths majority of all representatives present and voting at an Annual General Meeting, or a Special General Meeting convened for that purpose.

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