Opening of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing AGM

  • Annette King

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you this morning. It hardly seems like a year since I spoke at your last AGM, but time flies in this job. I know the saying "may you live in interesting times" is supposed to be an ancient Chinese curse but I disagree.

It's been an interesting 12 months for racing and it promises to be even more so this year.

You've finally got the Racing Bill 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 the 10th of August. 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 RIB but Rick has responded well. His achievements show that the new merged board can work.

One of the things that gives me cause for optimism 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.

Racing cannot afford to rest on its laurels, however. If racing started to pull itself apart again, now we have got this far, all the effort, soul-searching and pain would be for nought.

I want to turn now to some of the new initiatives in racing.

Recently we have been working with the Equine Industry Training Organisation to look at a number of issues, including:
?Ways in which we can attract and retain a skilled workforce
?The development of training and information services for the self-employed
?And the need for research.
A sub-committee was formed to consider these issues and they have put a good deal of work into this project. There are a number of suggestions that have come from their investigations and, depending on the feedback received from the industry, we will work with you to help implement some of these.

Young people have different 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 new Equine Academy is a good start in offering a learning environment that caters for the student's education and developmental needs. You have at least two audiences when you look to attract young people into the industry: potential trainees and their parents. Ask yourself: What environment would you want your child to train and work in?

When I was in Ireland in May I visited the Racing Academy Centre of Education, or RACE for short. It has been training young people in the racing industry for many years, and I was very impressed with what I saw, and with the potential it offered for New Zealand.

The racing industry does not live in isolation. Many of the issues that you face in racing 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 that are taking place between the racing industry and Federated Farmers. This is a small country and if we are to make the best use of our resources then we need to work co-operatively. I understand that complementary employment schemes are being considered. This is an innovative approach to problem solving.

Equine 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 things like business management, ACC, and employment issues.

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

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

Officials are currently working on an industry request for a comprehensive research project. I am supporting this because I believe it is central to development. You need to know what the industry is before you can pursue what it could be.

There is a feast of opportunity for New Zealand racing and I want to make sure that you've all got your knife and fork ready!

Recently I was in Ireland and met with a number of racing administrators and visited some studs. I was impressed by the enthusiasm that the Irish have for New Zealand.

Some may say that this is due to the Shuttle Stallions, and to an extent, I would agree. Some may say that Shuttle Stallions are a bad idea. I would not agree.

Shuttle Stallions have given New Zealand access to horses that would not otherwise have been within our financial reach. Understandably, there has been concern about whether this access is secure in the long-term, but I am convinced that the Irish are viewing New Zealand as partners and not a short-term contract opportunity.

I had the privilege of getting to know, for a few minutes, the remarkable Sadler's Wells, and I was also "introduced" to his most successful son, Montjeu, who will be standing here as a shuttle stallion this year. The shuttle stallion business offers New Zealand breeders a real chance to enhance our own industry.

And believe me, 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. Their grand old studs were owned by the Aga Khan, Americans, Italians and, possibly hardest for the Irish to swallow, the English.

Now Irish and foreign investors are partners in a thriving industry. Yes, they do have generous taxation rates and as soon as we get unrestricted, duty-free access to the EU market we'll do that too!
But what really made the difference to Ireland was the expansion of their industry base with foreign investment.

There are exciting investment opportunities in New Zealand. We have the climate, the people and, ironically, now the location. I say ironically because once we suffered from our isolation but as the world becomes even smaller, we find ourselves in close proximity to some of the world's most dynamic markets, and ideally placed to supply and service existing and emerging Asian racing nations.

'Sunline' popped over to Hong Kong and did us proud. She jetted off to Dubai and thrilled us again with her magnificent display of courage.

'Tapildo' and 'Bocelli' scored a quinella for New Zealand in the Singapore International Cup. 'Bocelli' had already created a huge impression in Singapore, and having his colours lowered in a desperate struggle with a fellow kiwi, will only underline the depth of quality of our horses.

We are an exporting nation. The recent vote for GlobalCo highlighted the fact that 95 percent of the dairy industry's production is exported. We cannot consume all that we grow - be it wine, dairy products, wool, or meat. I know we all do our best but we simply can't face consuming 95 percent more dairy products!

But that's not to underrate our domestic market. As a shareholder in a thoroughbred filly, I can tell you what I enjoy about it. There are 24 of us in this syndicate and we are all in it to share a dream. In short, we want to be entertained and so far, without even going to the races yet, our syndicate is getting that.

You will all recognise these attributes but then I'm speaking to the converted. We've got to speak to the uninitiated.

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

I hope you all enjoy another successful 12 months, and I know I will catch up with many of you outside the birdcage. Thank you again for inviting me to speak to you today.