Guy: Greyhound Racing Association AGM
12 October, 2013
Sppech to the New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association’s AGM
Good morning and thank you for inviting me to open the 105th Annual General Meeting of the New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association.
Can I acknowledge:
• Chairman John McArthur
• Members of the New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association
• Club presidents, and representatives.
I want to acknowledge the sad passing of Gordon Kingston, only two weeks after he was inducted into the New Zealand Greyhound Hall of Fame. This was a thoroughly deserved recognition, not only for Gordon but for the entire Kingston family, during a difficult time.
The Kingston family played a major part in developing the greyhound code in the Canterbury region as far back as the 1940s, when the code was known as a coursing sport.
New racing leadership
Since your last AGM we now have a new Chair for the New Zealand Racing Board. In July I announced Glenda Hughes as the new independent chair person.
Ms Hughes has a wide range of skills and experience from her 25 years in business, including strategic management, social and public change programmes and marketing.
Of course she also has a lifelong interest in sports, which dates right back to her captaincy of the New Zealand track and field team in 1983, when she was competing in the shot put.
In July last year I appointed four new Board members, and around the same time Chris Bayliss came onboard as the new Chief Executive. This has delivered some fresh new leadership for the racing industry.
Three weeks ago the Board announcedrecord results for betting turnover and net profit in 2012/13, resulting in a record distribution to the country’s racing industry.
The three Racing Codes – New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, Harness Racing New Zealand and Greyhound Racing New Zealand – received $142.0 million from the NZ Racing Board’s operations, an increase of $6.5 million on 2011/12.
For the season to July 2013, $21 million was funded to GRNZ. This is an increase of just over a million dollars from the previous year.
This is a major increase from 2003/04 when the figure was just $8.5 million.
The final distribution from the Racing Board came as a result of record turnover of $1.957 billion in the year to July 31 2013, with a 13.2% increase in net profit to $144.1 million.
This is an excellent result, given increasing competition for the racing dollar and 12 race meeting abandonments due to extreme weather conditions.
Overall the racing industry makes an important contribution to the New Zealand economy, generating around $1.6 billion annually and around 17000 jobs.
As well as the economic contribution, it’s also a very important source of enjoyment for many passionate people around the country.
Yesterday I received a copy of Greyhound Racing New Zealand’s annual report for 2012/13. It is pleasing to see there was a record stakes payout of over $11 million, an increase of $1.4m on the previous season.
In April this year, I attended the Australasian Racing Minister’s Conference in Sydney.
This conference presented a great opportunity to talk to my counterparts across the Tasman about challenges and developments in the industry. I found it particularly interesting to discuss issues common to both countries.
I also took the opportunity to invite federal ministers to hold the next conference here in New Zealand, and I am grateful that they have accepted. I expect that this conference is likely to be held around March next year.
Importantly, this will provide a further opportunity for networking with the Australian Ministers, and representatives from the codes in Australia, to see what progress on issues has been made, and what is maybe applicable to the industry here.
Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill
Gambling is central to racing, both in terms of the sport maintaining public interest and keeping the excitement factor for patrons, to keep them coming back. It is also a necessity in terms of providing funding to the codes. Without it, the codes would not be able to maintain facilities and support themselves.
However, due to the harm problem gambling can cause for some people in society, it will always be contentious and have its share of detractors.
This year Parliament has debated and passed Te Ururoa Flavell’s Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Bill. This Bill had the potential to impact on the racing industry through changes to the distribution and application of class 4 gambling proceeds.
I know that many racing organisations made submissions against the proposal in the Bill that would have seen racing removed as an authorised purpose, for which the proceeds of non-casino gaming machines can be used.
I was heavily involved throughout this process, and fought in your corner. I was able to convince my colleagues to see the wider picture of how the racing industry and its facilities positively impact wider communities. As a result, this means that class 4 gambling funds will still be able to be used to support racing clubs.
This reflects the Government realises the importance of this funding to racing, but also shows and the importance of racing to New Zealand as a whole.
Greyhound welfare review
A major issue for your industry this year has been the Independent Welfare Review of the greyhound racing industry.
By commissioning this report you have shown the industry’s real desire to improve greyhound welfare standards.
I have read the report with interest and have met with the Association to discuss the report’s recommendations.
The report notes that, overall, greyhounds appear to be very well cared for during their racing lives. However, it does raise some concerns with the potential to impact on the industry’s reputation.
The reviewers identified the need for:
• greater transparency, especially around what happens to dogs that do not end up racing or are retired;
• better ways to manage ‘excess’ animals,
so that the number of unwanted animals being euthanised is
• improved industry standards and rules, and better awareness and enforcement of them;
• improved track safety standards, by building on current safety initiatives, undertaking more research and making links with international racing bodies;
• improved injury reporting, so that trends or specific welfare issues can be identified and investigated further if necessary; and
• a better industry welfare governance structure and better management of welfare activities.
In my roles as the Minister for Racing and for Primary Industries, I take animal welfare issues very seriously and I fully support the report’s recommendations.
I know that many of you here today own and race greyhounds and care deeply about their welfare, both on and off the track. It is important to show the public that you take these issues seriously and are making real changes.
There is work to be done in some key areas:
• greyhound population
• welfare standards;
• track safety standards;
• injury reporting; and
• welfare governance and management standards.
It is vital that greyhound racing clubs are supportive of the Board’s efforts to address the report’s recommendations, particularly where rule changes may be required.
I have asked the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee for further advice on the matters raised in the report. I have asked the Committee to consider whether there is anything the Government needs to do, in addition to the mechanisms that are already in place. I expect to hear from the Committee very soon.
As you may know, the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill has recently passed its first reading in Parliament, and is now before a select committee.
The Act itself is not broken, and it does not need an overhaul – the policy and principals on which the Act is based remain valid. What does need to be addressed are some operational issues that have prevented the Act from being as effective as it could be. This is especially true in terms of enforcing the Act.
It’s clear to me that New Zealanders are passionate about animal welfare, and they care deeply about how animals are treated. Sixty eight per cent of New Zealand households have a pet. Therefore, it’s important to see the industry working together to improve the overall welfare of racing greyhounds.
New welfare programme
On that note, I want to congratulate the Association for introducing a new welfare programme for the industry.
I understand you have just recruited a National Animal Welfare Manager which shows how seriously you are taking this issue.
I’m also aware that the industry has been working alongside the National Sports Turf Institute, and that safety padding has been installed on track bends at the Auckland and Wanganui tracks, to prevent injuries.
There has also been a recent application to the Racing Safety Development Fund, to install steriline safety rails on tracks for next year.
The Fund’s objectives are to support projects that enhance safety in the racing industry and, thereby, raise the quality of facilities at racecourses. The fund has contributed significantly to the safety of the racing industry, by upgrading facilities for jockeys, harness riders, the racing animals, and racing patrons.
The fund is distributed to racing clubs through two funding rounds per year.
In the last 12 months, the New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association received $23,520 in funding for new padding at for four venues.
The Auckland Greyhound Club Racing also received $25,211 for lure running gear rails replacement, and Southland Greyhound Racing received just under $10,000 for track safety fencing.
I want to encourage other clubs to identify opportunities and make further applications.
I also want to acknowledge the Racing Integrity Unit’s work on providing more detailed injury reports, and its recent proposal to provide vets with more information on stand-down injuries, prior to race day.
Your combined efforts will help to improve welfare standards and public perceptions of the sport.
Greyhound racing has a long and proud history. It is the great enthusiasm of the animals that draws people to the sport. However, to continue to enjoy this experience and to maintain its positive reputation, the welfare of greyhounds needs to be a priority.
I applaud you for the changes you are making, and I encourage you to work together. In the meantime I’m looking forward to receiving regular updates on how these measures are progressing.
Once again, thank you for inviting me here today to talk with you. I hope you have a very productive AGM.