Speech By Annette King, Minister For Racing
Community Racing Forum
Thursday, June 1, 2000
Time To Move Ahead
SPEECH BY THE HON. ANNETTE KING
MINISTER FOR RACING
I am delighted to be here today with a group of racing and community people who would all dearly love racing to have a bright and secure future in this country.
I see my role in today's forum as threefold. The first part was to set up this forum. In the short time I have been in Government I have heard over and over again about the lack of recognition given to the value and importance of community racing in New Zealand. The second part is to chair the meeting and facilitate discussion over the next four hours. And the third part will be to urge you all at the end of this forum to ensure it hasn't just been a talkfest. You are among the people who care most deeply about racing in this country. And that means you are the people who must go out from this forum and ensure racing has the future you want it to have.
Since this forum was first announced, I have been encouraged by the number of people who have talked about it to me. I don't mean racing people as such, but simply New Zealanders who are interested in racing. There is a great deal of goodwill in New Zealand toward the racing industry. The challenge, with no disrespect to the other two codes, is to harness that goodwill for the benefit of racing generally.
There is a big agenda to get through today, with a tight timetable, and many of you want to speak, so there are a few simple rules that I want to put in place at the start. I will be adhering to these rules strictly. I hope you adhere to them strictly too, or at least a lot more strictly than would be the case if we had this many politicians in one room.
Before we start on each agenda topic, the speakers to that topic should assemble on the stage. When a speaker has been speaking for two minutes, a warning bell will sound. The fulltime bell will sound at three minutes. I tried to get hold of a siren, but was unable to do so.
There are some issues that are off the agenda. Taxation and gaming issues are among them. These topics will be the subject of future reviews, and submissions will be called for then.
Those are the rules. They are simple, and if you stick to them, my job will be a lot easier, other delegates will not get annoyed, and we will all have time for a drink at the end.
You are all here today for one overwhelming reason. The racing industry is facing a crisis. That can be accepted, but the important thing is to deal with the crisis, and to focus on the future. By all means talk about your concerns today, but everyone will be better off if you can also talk about positive ideas for alleviating those concerns.
The best outcome this forum can produce is to provide ways in which you can all work together to solve your own problems.
I hope you will all hear a lot about the word together today. I am happy to provide the environment and the legislation to empower the racing industry to run its own business the way it wants to, but there is absolutely no point in making legislative changes if they are not supported by the industry generally.
If the industry itself cannot show unity in the face of difficulties, then I cannot do it for the industry.
I would like to suggest there has never been a better time to create such a unity of purpose. A crisis should focus the mind.
I cannot believe that community clubs in this country do not have the pride and self-belief to meet the challenge of increased competition and the new needs of their patrons. The Victorian Country Racing Council may give a useful lead with its marketing of the brand 'Country Racing'.
I read a 'Country Racing' brochure the other day. It started: "It's hard to beat the atmosphere of a country race meeting with its inviting, friendly spirit, warm hospitality and tranquil scenery."
Well, I suggest we can beat that with New Zealand country racing. The scenery around some of our racecourses is spectacular. not simply tranquil.
The serious point I would like to make is that change in the racing industry is NOT optional. If you want community clubs and the industry as a whole to thrive, and I know you do, you must find ways to adapt to your market.
The march of technology cannot be stopped, and nor should it be. The internet will become an increasingly important part of your marketing, particularly in terms of getting to new supporters.
That is all I want to say this stage. Before I ask the Under-Secretary for Racing, my colleague John Wright, to say a few words too, I want to thank you for all the effort you have put into this forum. I now look forward to hearing your ideas and your opinions. Let's all try to make them count.