Greyhound Racing annual conference

  • Annette King

It's been an interesting year for racing already, and it promises to be even more so as the year progresses.

Now there are all sorts of definition of interesting. Some issues, interestingly enough, are the sort of issues you don't want to be the least bit interested in. But racing doesn't fall into that category. It is genuinely interesting, and the more interesting it can be made, the more successful it will become.

The Racing Bill has finally made its way into the House. That represents a lot of work by the industry, and I'd like to take this chance to applaud the effort that many of you have made.

The Bill has gone to the Select Committee and submissions close on August 10. If you feel you have something to contribute to the Bill or want to support it, I urge you to make a submission.

This is a complex industry made up of diverse but inter-dependent sectors, and it is appropriate to acknowledge the professional way in which Rick Bettle has managed these relationships. It was a big call to chair both the TAB and Racing Industry Board, but Rick's response to the challenge shows that the new merged board can work.

One thing that makes me optimistic about the future of racing is not that you have a new Bill, but that you have pulled together to make it happen. The Bill is not the answer to all your prayers but it certainly is a tool to help you face problems and make the most of opportunities.

Recently my racing advisers have been working closely with the Equine Industry Training Organisation. The name may not reflect greyhound racing as such, but the RIB supports this ITO so that automatically involves the New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association as well.
Areas such as club administration and employment issues are naturally important to greyhound racing, and now, while your industry is growing, is the best time to plan.

Young people have continually changing employment expectations and needs, and if racing is going to attract people into its fold, these needs are going to have to be addressed.

It is vital that we develop and nurture a skilled workforce to take the industry ahead and we must consider new ways of doing this.

The racing industry does not live in isolation. Many issues that you face are shared by other industries. Problems such as casualisation and urbanisation of the workforce, and addressing the information and training needs of the self-employed, are common to many land-based industries.

I am encouraged by the discussions taking place between the racing industry and Federated Farmers. This is a small country and if we are to make best use of resources then we need to work cooperatively.

Racing and farming employers are not always in a position to employ full-time staff, but between them they could provide wider, more attractive, career opportunities for prospective workers.

Complementary employment is one example; there are others such as shared seminars on issues like business management and ACC.

There is obviously a lot of common ground between the two industries. Indeed, you could argue that they are not so much two industries, but two parts of one industry, based on working with animals and the land.

I am not suggesting that you should trade your racing identity for that of farming or any other. Far from it, in fact, but I am suggesting you identify your strengths and opportunities and make the most of them.

Officials are currently considering an industry request for a comprehensive research project. I am supporting this because it is essential that the industry knows what it is now before it seeks to develop.

New Zealand greyhound racing enjoys growing support, and after talking to racing people in Ireland during a visit there in May, I am convinced it can enjoy even greater support, particularly among young people.

Greyhound racing has become a popular leisure activity in Ireland. Families are attracted to meetings, but I am told young people have really embraced the concept of a night at the greyhounds. I don't think young New Zealanders are so different from young Irish people.

While I am on the subject of Ireland and racing generally, I must say that the Irish know about partnerships. Before their "economic miracle", otherwise known as the EU, most of the Irish racing industry was based on offshore investment. Now Irish and foreign investors are partners in a thriving industry. What really made the difference to Ireland was the expansion of their industry base with foreign investment.

That should interest the greyhound industry here, because your most successful owner (at least in terms of Group One winners) this year was an Australian. I believe many of the dogs are Australian bred but Kiwis are training them and backing them.

Clearly the trade with Australia has been beneficial to your industry and has played its part in the growth. It's good to see you take the spirit of CER seriously - and that you get on the winning side of it!

I also believe it is worth considering a joint, code-coordinated approach to your external communications. Lyell Creek, Misty Ana, and Sunline all captured the public imagination, and selling dreams is a big part of your stock in trade.

Before I finish, I know you wanted me to update you on progress on the Gaming Review.

Ministers have been making a series of high-level 'in principle' decisions over recent weeks. The decisions are being made in the context of 1300 public submissions to the review, including a submission prepared by the key racing industry bodies, including your association.
These 'in-principle' decisions include, for example, issues around operator access to the different forms of gaming, and what the proceeds of gaming should be used for.

Ministers have publicly discussed some of the early decisions. For example, we have decided that the Government, and the Ministry of Health in particular, are to play a much greater role in the area of problem gambling.

Another decision that has been announced is the intention that the Lotteries Commission will remain in public ownership.

One decision that will interest this audience is that Ministers have agreed that the proceeds from race betting will remain with the racing industry.

The Government will continue to make these decisions over the next few weeks and once they have been made, the future shape of the gaming industry will start to emerge.

My colleague, George Hawkins, the Minister of Internal Affairs, is confident that gaming legislation will be introduced by the end of this year. This is an ambitious timetable, and Ministers and officials are working hard to ensure that it is achieved.

Thank you again for inviting me today. I wish you a successful conference, a great function tonight, and, most of all, a great 12 months ahead. Thank you.