Pair plea to save race course

Stratford Press - - News -

Strat­ford mayor Neil Volzke and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Strat­ford Dis­trict Coun­cil, Sven Hanne, say the po­ten­tial loss of Strat­ford’s race course would have a neg­a­tive im­pact on the com­mu­nity.

Neil says he and Sven worked to­gether to write a let­ter ex­plain­ing their con­cerns, which they have sent through to the Depart­ment of In­ter­nal Af­fairs. “The DIA had asked for feed­back on John Mes­sara’s re­view of the New Zealand rac­ing in­dus­try and that was some­thing we were keen to pro­vide.”

An edited ver­sion of their feed­back is printed be­low.

On be­half of our com­mu­nity, we would like to ad­dress the sig­nalled loss of Strat­ford’s Te Ka­pua Park. Horse train­ing has a long his­tory in Strat­ford — as part of the re­search for this sub­mis­sion we were able to track the be­gin­nings of Strat­ford’s cur­rent race track, Te Ka­pua Park, back to 1891 — some 127 years ago, known as Bush­ford Park at the time.

The ob­vi­ous and im­me­di­ate im­pact of los­ing Te Ka­pua Park would be the loss of a lo­cal train­ing fa­cil­ity for the cur­rent seven train­ers and ap­prox­i­mately 60 horses in their care. The train­ing ac­tiv­ity pro­vides in­come and em­ploy­ment as well as eco­nomic spin-offs through as­so­ci­ated ser­vices, sup­pli­ers, vets, etc.

It all forms part of the crit­i­cal mass it takes for ru­ral towns like Strat­ford to re­tain ser­vices and em­ploy­ment. It also pro­vides op­por­tu­ni­ties for lo­cal peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate as own­ers, and cre­ates a much stronger in­ter­est in the sport, when lo­cally owned and or trained horses com­pete, as it re­tains lo­cal as­so­ci­a­tion with the sport and is re­tained as part of the fab­ric of the lo­cal com­mu­nity. At a time when the gov­ern­ment fo­cus is on eco­nomic devel­op­ment in the re­gions, it seems coun­ter­in­tu­itive for the gov­ern­ment to ac­tively ter­mi­nate the liveli­hoods of a long-stand­ing and well-re­spected pro­fes­sion in the very re­gions they are claim­ing to be sup­port­ing. It is also worth not­ing that, by virtue of Sec­tion 9(2) of the Rac­ing Act 2003, the Rac­ing Board must “com­ply with the prin­ci­ples of nat­u­ral jus­tice; and ex­hibit a sense of so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity by hav­ing re­gard to the in­ter­ests of the com­mu­nity in which it oper­ates”. We would sug­gest that the Mes­sara Re­port, which fails to recog­nise this obli­ga­tion on the part of the board, is in di­rect con­flict with this re­quire­ment.

To be clear — we do not dis­agree with the ag­gre­ga­tion of race tracks for the pur­pose of rac­ing, how­ever we do strongly ob­ject to lo­cal train­ing fa­cil­i­ties that are es­sen­tial to the liveli­hoods of some of our res­i­dents be­ing dis­owned and sold to fund fa­cil­i­ties else­where. We would also ques­tion the process, con­sis­tency and cri­te­ria used to de­ter­mine which tracks have been se­lected for clo­sure across the coun­try. This de­ci­sion can be in­flu­enced by broader fac­tors in­clud­ing many from those out­side the rac­ing fra­ter­nity, but there ap­pears to be no con­sul­ta­tion with other in­ter­ested par­ties that may well pro­vide ben­e­fi­cial al­ter­na­tives.

In ad­di­tion to horse train­ing and rac­ing, Te Ka­pua Park is used for a much wider range of ac­tiv­i­ties than just horse rac­ing. Com­mu­nity groups as well as lo­cal schools ac­tively use the fa­cil­ity. The loss of the fa­cil­ity would re­move pub­lic ac­cess and put fur­ther pres­sure on ex­ist­ing coun­cil fa­cil­i­ties, or re­quire coun­cil to de­velop a fa­cil­ity to meet the needs of the wider com­mu­nity, cur­rently filled by Te Ka­pua Park. Once again, gov­ern­ment is trans­fer­ring costs on to coun­cils, with no con­sul­ta­tion and de­spite re­peat claims by its min­is­ters “that un­like their pre­de­ces­sors, they will be work­ing in part­ner­ship with lo­cal gov­ern­ment”.

Last but not least, we feel the need to ad­dress the mat­ter of the Gov­ern­ment tak­ing free­hold land that is owned by the com­mu­nity for the pur­pose of fund­ing fa­cil­i­ties out­side our com­mu­nity. We are un­able to find a le­gal prece­dent to this kind of ac­tion and are un­able to see how this can be un­der­taken legally. The clos­est leg­isla­tive rel­a­tive to the sig­nalled ac­tion would be the Pub­lic Works Act, but even that has com­pen­sa­tion of the prop­erty owner at the core. In our view it is a slip­pery slope and we strongly urge the Gov­ern­ment to stay clear of such in­de­fen­si­ble ac­tions.

■ Neil Volzke, Strat­ford mayor, and Sven Hanne, CEO Strat­ford Dis­trict Coun­cil

Mayor Neil Volzke and CEO Sven Hanne say the loss of Strat­ford’s race course would have a neg­a­tive im­pact on the com­mu­nity.

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