Towards the end of last year, I was gently scolded by a gentleman who has been a constant presence in the industry for as long as I have been involved. He wanted to know what had happened to this blog, why I wasn’t writing and whether I had been effectively “gagged.”
To be honest what had really happened was that I had lost motivation, as I could see things beginning to evolve following the release of the Messara report and the passing of the Racing Amendment Act, the industry did appear to be progressing. While the pace of the progress was not ideal, I was prepared to err on the side of the old Mainland cheese advert, “good things take time.”
Given the time between the release of the Messara Report (30 August 2018 for those who need reminding) and the appearance of the Racing Industry Bill I was expecting a well-crafted document. Unfortunately, what did finally emerge looked as though it had been put together by a bunch of people with little familiarity with the industry; how it currently works; and what Messara intended.
A mishmash of cut-and-paste from the existing Bill and garbled interpretations of what was a very clearly articulated blueprint of how things should look, there appear to be so many fingerprints on this Bill it would be difficult to pin the crime on one culprit.
That lengthy preamble is what passes as an explanation as to why I have breathed life back into this blog. I am motivated to ensure that as many people as possible are aware of the yawning difference between what Messara created and what the bureaucrats have delivered.
I keep coming back to the fact that in the Messara Report we had a blueprint. The Minister then applied due diligence appointing the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) to run a ruler over the Messara Report. Subsequently we ended up with RITA, the Racing Industry Transition Agency which was intended to maintain BAU as the industry moved from the horrors of the past to a brave new world.
My fellow blogger Brian de Lore provided a handful of the Racing Minister’s better comments from his speech in Hamilton at the launch of the Messara Report and I recommend you read that here. However, there were a few others which provide a reminder of how the Minister saw the industry at that time.
“If you think I’m a harbinger of doom of gloom, read the Racing Board’s annual report out this year,” he stated.
“Here is a fact. This year a three-year revolving debt facility was established to supplement the NZRB balance sheet.
And total equity is budgeted to decline by $15.6 million this year.”
So that is where we were and what John Messara gave us was a map out of the NZRB-created maze into what promised to be a utopia. Armed with that document one could be forgiven for thinking there was a glimmer of light at the end of the interminable tunnel we have been negotiating. And then the tinkering began and with the release of the Racing Industry Bill it was apparent that the wheels had well and truly fallen off. Somewhere along the line the Messara Report had been hijacked and it would seem that whoever stuck their oar in was limited in knowledge of the industry, how it functioned and why Messara flagged the changes he did.
A very wise racing administrator, on first viewing of the Racing Industry Bill, told me his one recollection from his school days and his Tech Drawing class was that when one started to remove elements from a blueprint then it impacted on the integrity of the structure. And that is what the gang of Bill writers, or those who influenced them, achieved.
What we have now bears a resemblance to the Messara report in much the same way that Bold Personality bore a resemblance to Fine Cotton.
Those with a desire to see this industry grow and thrive need to familiarise themselves with the key clauses of the Racing Industry Bill and how they create a very different final outcome to that predicted by Messara. And please, don’t just read the Explanatory Note at the beginning and think you’ve got it covered. It paints a picture so different from the Bill that it is clear the writers of each had possibly never been introduced.
Once au fait with the Bill and how it is written compare the significant areas around code functions, governance and appointments to the TAB, not to mention government interference, with the intention of the Messara Review’s recommendations. A simple submission could be created purely around those issues.
The industry (not to mention others who believe themselves impacted) has until 11 February to make submissions. It also must mobilise and unite as never before to ensure their local MP (in this election year) is well aware of our views.