There's no future for racing in New Zealand without country clubs such as the Woodville-Pahiatua Racing Club, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters believes.
He and New Zealand First list MP Darroch Ball were on course at Woodville last Thursday supporting the club's rural race day and with the club struggling, his support was appreciated.
"There's no future without clubs such as this because the racing fan base is built up province by province," he told the Dannevirke News. "If you take away that fan base ... well, Australia has found that out. "If there was a decent racing policy in New Zealand we wouldn't be having this conversation. This is a $1.8 billion industry and it's suffering from a lack of Government support. Sadly too many politicians only see the glamour side of race day, if they got up at 4am with a shovel they'd know the real racing industry."
Paula McCool, secretary of the Woodville-Pahiatua Racing Club, said attendance at last Thursday's race day was well down on the previous year. "Despite it being the school holidays, families and children weren't there," she said. "And our sponsorship for the event was only half of last year because times really are tough in the rural sector."
Paula said she couldn't confirm the on-course and off-course betting totals, but after race six on the card, things weren't looking good.
"It's definitely a sign of the times and although Winston said our facilities were good, they're tired and we need to reinvest in maintenance and upgrading, but we can't at this stage, so you have to wonder where we are heading. We'll just keep going for as long as we can."
Mr Peters said along China's eastern seaboard racing is coming on fast, but because there aren't enough people prepared to take the risk and invest here, we could be missing a great opportunity. But he said clubs need to market the entertainment value of a race day better.