Call me cynical but I’m not buying this sympathy wave the NZ Racing Board is currently riding. With a late run reminiscent of Chautauqua the NZRB is attempting to position itself as a victim. The outcome is more likely to be akin to last Friday’s Moonee Valley trial rather than the withering last-second winning burst a la any of the grey flash’s TJ Smith successes.
If you watched Weigh In last week, then you will have witnessed the staggering sight of the NZRB CEO John Allen stating that he did not speak to the Minister of Racing. That was confirmation, if needed, that the NZRB in its current form is broken.
There were a couple of things which immediately sprang to mind when I heard that. The first was, “well in that case do any of your well-rewarded Government and Industry relationship managers have any contact with the minister’s office”? And, the second was – “Winston can’t be that difficult to contact, Brian de Lore seems to have no problem getting him to provide answers to straight-forward questions.”
Long term readers will remember the Government and Industry relationship tribe which I referred to in a blog post last November (More climb aboard the NZRB gravy train). From what I have heard over the past week though, they were as blind-sided as Allen when the Minister announced he was pulling the Racefields legislation.
It would seem from this that no one at the NZRB was paying attention when the Messara report was launched and the Racing Minister was answering questions. In addition to communication problems it would appear the CEO and chair are also challenged when it comes to listening and comprehension because, seated front and centre at the launch they managed to miss what everyone else watching heard and saw.
Interestingly, Brian de Lore wrote the following paragraph referencing this in his latest column in The Informant – you won’t have read it though as it was deleted:
That fact has been stated several times here in The Informant. The Minister stated it himself at the launch of the Messara Report (and debated it with Graeme Rogerson) and he has always said we get only one chance at doing the legislation and everything had to be done at once. It was no secret.
I went back and watched that segment of the Q&A again where, in response to Graeme Rogerson’s question about Section 16 the Minister had, among other things, this to say:
“I said that the law had been written in 2002 and the last one which is now before parliament which we have suspended bear the hallmarks of writing legislation for politicians and bureaucrats at their convenience and not with the interests of the industry in mind.”
When Rogerson pushed further asking specifically about Racefields legislation Winston Peters claimed the trainer was wanting to head down the motorway in a Lada when he was trying to create a Rolls Royce future for the industry.
“That legislation has got problems with it and we’ve only got a certain gap in the legislative schedule ahead to put the changes in we want,” he stated.
In response to the Minister’s query as to whether he saw the legislation as the “salvation of the industry” Rogerson said, no but it was a help.
The Racing Minister’s pithy reply, “So’s liniment!” left little doubt as to his opinion of the racefields legislation.
Apparently, this exchange went whizzing over the heads of those from NZRB and obviously was also missed by the wonderful leadership team which John Allen would happily have alongside him in any battle.
Their unwavering belief that Racefields was to be their saviour also probably meant they didn’t bother too much with reading the Messara report which also pointed out flaws in the legislation.
This pretty much sums it up:
We are not convinced that the maximum level of penalties prescribed in the Bill is sufficiently high enough to act as a proper deterrent for persons not complying with the legislation. Perhaps further consideration should be given to adding custodial penalties for persons found guilty of breaching the legislation. It is widely thought that the inclusion of custodial penalties in the NSW legislation has been a prime motivator for a high level of compliance. While it would be beneficial for the legislation to be enacted at the earliest opportunity to generate much needed revenue for the racing industry, it would be more appropriate to delay its passage until a final decision is made by the Government on the preferred structure of racing and betting administration in New Zealand. This would avoid the necessity of setting up monitoring and collection systems within the nominated Designated Authority only to have to repeat the exercise if the structure changes.
Based on what we have seen and heard from the NZRB over the past week or so it would seem they are living in an alternate universe. In that world work goes on shovelling money into a FOB platform which has the whiff of a three-week dead trout about it; jobs of all descriptions are advertised despite the future of the organisation being shaky at best; and there is no connection between the senior leadership team and the Minister.
Shouldn’t we all be more than a little concerned about all of the above? Even more so when it is being portrayed by the CEO as if they are the ones who are being hard done by.
We are lucky in this country to have relatively easy access to our politicians, we connect to them via social media, can drop them an email, write them a letter and even give them a phone call – which they may, or may not chose to answer!
Brian de Lore told me earlier this week that he had flicked a text to Racing Minister Winston Peters and received a phone call within three minutes.
He relays this in his piece in The Informant where the Minister could not have been clearer when it came to the Racefields legislation.
“I cannot keep on jamming things into the Parliamentary schedule and it made sense to pull that out of the schedule and incorporate whatever good parts there are into a new Bill as fast as I can,” the Minister told de Lore.
Given this and further comments from the Minister in the de Lore piece it was somewhat odd to see an NZRB puff piece also featuring in The Informant where John Allen is apparently “pushing a case for the Racing Board and the TAB in its current form to maintain a position at the top of industry administration and oversight.”
Anyone with a little more self-awareness might have already fallen on their sword.
Instead, we continue to hear the same old rhetoric coming out of Petone where it is everyone else’s fault that they are now presiding over a dead horse. We are told they are passionate about the industry – as passionate as a six-figure salary can make you, I think – and that they want to see it thrive. Excuse me if we aren’t swallowing it, after three years we’ve figured out the talk is just talk.
The implementation of recommendation number 4 can’t come soon enough. Don’t be surprised though if, when the independents charged with conducting a performance and efficiency audit of the NZRB finally break into Fortress Petone, they find nothing but a burnt-out shell.