Whereas most of those who spent the time and effort putting together a submission to the DIA on the contents of the Messara report one group of clubs furnished an eight-paragraph diatribe.
Avondale, Bank’s Peninsula, Central Otago, Egmont, Gore, Kurow, Oamaru, Reefton, Rotorua, Stratford, Wairoa, Westland, Winton and Woodville, along with “supportive tenant clubs”: Beaumont, Tapanui, Wairio and Wyndham have pinned their collective futures on this peculiar document.
Their “submission” is entitled “Collective statement concerning DIA process” and, rather than considering the future of the industry as a whole is focused solely on what they, through their representative Murray Blue, describe as a “land grab.”
(For those younger readers who might not be well acquainted with previous racing activities of Dr Blue click here for a little background).
These clubs, in the “submission” which bears their names, also appear to be putting words in the deputy Prime Minister’s mouth – never a wise move – claiming Winston Peters, at the launch of the Messara report: “adopted the Messara findings unequivocally and without providing for consultation with clubs.”
Obviously, Dr Blue and his merry followers must have been listening to and reading totally different speeches and press releases to the rest of us.
What our Racing Minister actually said was that the Messara Report “confirms what many of us have been worried about for a number of years and highlights the need for the industry to turn itself around.”
He went on to state: “The government will now take the opportunity to fully assess Mr Messara’s report. My intention is to have officials produce a Cabinet paper with a set of recommendations for decision. While it is too early to say what Cabinet will agree upon, the severity of the situation means the status quo is unlikely to prevail.”
“As this review identifies, a complex task lies ahead and for that reason Cabinet will also consider establishing a transition agency to help guide the process, particularly if there are changes to racing governance,” he said.
Submissions were called for in mid-September, giving plenty of time for those who may have experienced a knee-jerk reaction to actually read and re-read the report in its entirety. At that time the Minister said that the review “delivers a blunt appraisal and concludes the New Zealand racing industry is in a state of serious malaise.”
“It is important that those most vested in the industry have the opportunity to provide feedback on the recommendations,” he said.
This was the chance for those clubs who were feeling marginalised because their venues were slated for closure to make a considered bid for reconsideration.
Instead, what happened? Somehow those clubs listed earlier decided to pin their hopes for a future where nothing changed on a document which did not address one of the recommendations raised in the Messara report. Instead it dwells only on the approach taken to arrive at the recommendation around the need for track closures.
Their argument was akin to that of a tantrum-throwing toddler in a playground spat – it’s not fair!
Apparently, it was not fair that the clubs “were not in any meaningful way consulted by John Messara in connection with his ultimate conclusion that the property assets of selected individual clubs should be confiscated by NZTR via legislation.”
It was not fair that “in a number of instances John Messara with his NZTR or ‘major club’ guides on the road, made fleeting visits to tracks with no attempt to consult with club officials; in other instances, there was no visit at all. In general terms neither John Messara nor a representative of Messara met or conferred with clubs before proclaiming his idea to nationalise their private assets. Despite his experience in business and racing administration John Messara has failed in this element of fundamental human rights. The prospect of a ‘land grab’ against us was never put to us, nor the subject of a request for input, before a unilateral announcement by the Racing Minister and Deputy Prime Minister (Claudelands, 31 August 2018).”
The document appears to hinge upon the following statement: “The Messara Report which the Racing Minister appears hell-bent on following in all of its recommendations, is flawed as it affects us for procedural unfairness.
“For that reason these clubs see as unlawful the government’s proposed course of action. Further, this after-the-fact activity by DIA in asking for input in October 2018, on the internet, seeking ultimately an endorsement of the Right Hon Winston Peters [sic] acceptance of John Messara’s justifications for a ‘land grab’ is not something to which these clubs will submit.”
So, forget the recommendations which, if followed, will revive an industry in its death throes, let’s argue process.
There is no one currently involved in this industry who does not sympathise with those clubs faced with the possibility of relocating their racing to another venue. But, at this stage nothing is set in stone and while clubs may feel taking a combative stand is the only way to achieve their end goal more would be achieved by entering into constructive communication.
Creating petitions, roping in opposition politicians and firing allegations of illegal activity at government are not conducive to allowing our industry to progress.
Just to confirm the clubs concerned, along with the writer of their “submission,” may have a tenuous relationship with reality I really have to include the final paragraphs, parts of which enter into a realm of paranoia I haven’t seen since 2002.
“In the view of the clubs listed below, there is the possibility of a predetermined course of action, involving John Messara (and his people if any) and senior executives of NZTR or its board, in that the Messara Report implements in whole or part a pre-existing internal agenda in NZTR, whereby NZTR aimed to be able to close venues to release funds from within the thoroughbred industry to fund capital expenditure on new and existing sites proposed for the Waikato and other regions. These issues within the industry power base grew in proportion from January 2018.”
“In our view this move by the DIA to provide a consultation function for their Minister is (potentially) an attempt to cure both the mistakes of John Messara in the way he conducted himself in New Zealand while surveying the subject matter of his report, and the impulsive nature of the Minister’s instant adoption of the Messara Report on or about 31 August, despite the Minister’s office having the final of the Messara Report for more than four weeks before he showcased it at the Claudelands function.”
“Accordingly, these listed clubs reject the relevant portions of the Messara Report and will not accept the legitimacy of any proposed legislative step by the government to furnish funds for the rationalisation of thoroughbred racing.”
At the very least this slight document will have provided some interesting reading for those at DIA charged with working through the submissions. Just what they made of an attack of their process is anyone’s guess.
Sadly, these clubs in nailing their colours to the mast of the good ship Blue have identified themselves as not being supportive of the future of the New Zealand industry.
By placing self-interest first, and not even entering into discussions as to what life at another venue might look like, they have missed a gilt-edged opportunity to reap a future where they might be the next Feilding JC. This blinkered approach, if they maintain it, will only hasten the demise of their respective clubs.
Perhaps, once they have had the opportunity to read and digest the bits of the report they obviously missed on first reading, they may reconsider and instead chose to be part of a thriving industry. It’s not too late.