The race has been run, all parties have weighed in, correct weight has been signalled and the country has a new government. It is one which those in racing are now expecting to deliver on the ten point promise outlined in NZ First’s racing policy.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has also claimed the Racing portfolio, to the surprise of those who were unaware such a thing even existed, and expectations among those who were aware are high.
Prior to the election, there were two aspects of the policy which I did try and gain clarification around – without any joy. They weren’t major issues. I just asked some questions around timing and planning. Like everyone else, I will now sit back and wait for the policies to implemented and see just how my concerns are addressed.
One point which I hope the Minister will address straight out of the gates though is the following:
Urgently review the operations and costs of the New Zealand Racing Board.
About damned time really.
Earlier this year, with time on my hands, I delved into the NZRB annual reports online and charted the terrifying increase in staff numbers over the years, accompanied by an escalating cost to the industry in salaries. By 2016’s annual report staff expenses totalled $66million – a fairly healthy chunk of the operating costs.
Those earning in excess of $100,000 – a mere 130-odd at the time of the 2016 Annual Report – were listed in $10,000 bands. For example, just 30 NZRB worker bees struggle along on salaries of $100,000-$110,000; 23 were finding it a little easier to afford their avocado-toast in the $110,000-$120,000 band – and so it went on right up the $350,000-$360,000 slot where there was just one lone body and then a leap to – presumably – the top man, all alone in the $650,000-660,000 bracket.
It was galling to discover there are apparently that many people employed at the NZRB who are considered to be doing enough to progress our industry to warrant that level of remuneration. Would it be more palatable if we were travelling better? Personally, I don’t think so.
So, because I had time on my hands I crafted an OIA request to determine how much they pay the other poor sods who are employed there. Possibly the ones who actually do the work!
The breakdown, when it came, was pretty depressing. Given the letter was dated February 2017 the “categorisation of NZRB employees” was dated “as at 31/7/2017” – quite possibly they meant 2016, or maybe they were gazing into the future. Anyway, at whatever date we are looking at, the permanent full-time employees totalled 488; permanent part-time was 270; fixed term 37; and casual 78, giving a grand total of 873.
The majority of those fulltime employees fell into the $40,000-$59,999 band (116); 65 were in the $60,000-$69,999; 53, $70,000-$79,999; 53, $80,000-$89,999; and 32, $90,000-$99,999.
The response to my request also broke the staffing down into business units, listing job titles (but no numbers under each title) total staff and total salary.
Each business unit reports to the GM of that unit and seven GMs, along with the CEO, comprise the “Leadership Team.” One GM, according to the information I was provided, manages both the Customer and On Course business units, the others control just one area.
The breakdown just to pay the people the Racing Board deems it necessary to run our industry is as follows (and please note, this includes permanent, fixed term and casual staff of NZRB as at February 2017):
Betting – total staff 69; total salary $4,667,624.75
Customer – total staff 341, $15,117,582.02
Finance – total staff 42, $4,500,671.94
Media & Content – total staff 181, $10,767,257.49
On Course – total staff 43, $1,940,530.06
People – total staff 10, $926,298.72
Services – total staff 99, $6,962,574.40
Technology – total staff 61, $5,743,734.00
In addition to the positions listed there were an additional 20 jobs listed under “current active recruitment” – some of these were seeking multiple appointments.
If you haven’t read these numbers and had to pick your jaw up off the floor then I would respectfully suggest you are suffering from Stockholm syndrome.
For too long we have tolerated a bloated, blinkered organisation which has ignored the needs of the industry it was set up to serve. Even as it blundered along, all the time telling us things were fine, we were on the cusp of something great, it assured us we needed to trust it. If you still believe this then you are a textbook case of Stockholm syndrome!
I may have become more than a little obsessed with the salary levels it takes to run racing because, as the Board was cranking up its staff numbers and the dollars WE forked out to pay them, out in the real world companies were streamlining.
The industry I moved back into when I left employment in racing had faced huge disruption and, accordingly, was cutting its cloth to embrace those changes. Over a period of eight years restructures and jobs being “disestablished” became the new normal and fewer people were left to do more work. And forget about wage increases and incentive payments!
Interestingly, I wouldn’t have been anywhere else. There is something inspiring about learning new skills; adapting to overcome problems as safety layers were removed; and taking your staff with you on a journey to a new frontier. That happens when you have a passion for what you are doing!
In the meantime accountable, seemingly to no one, the Racing Board was morphing into a cumbersome, lumbering beast suckling 800+ employees, many who seemed to be there purely for the money.
Will Winston be the knight in shining armour to slay the dragon of the Board’s excesses? There are more than a few with actual skin in the game hoping that will be the case.