Wairoa is at risk of losing one of its two major annual events if the Government adopts recommendations of a report on the racing industry.

Released by Minister of Racing and deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, the report by Australian consultant John Messara proposes scratching 20 courses from the galloping programme throughout the country — reducing the number from 48 to 28.

Among them is Wairoa Te Kupenga Racecourse, where the next race meeting, and possibly the last, is scheduled for February 21 and 24.

It is one of 11 courses the report says should be closed in the following season, with the possibility its two days of action — which on the Wairoa calendar holds parallel billing alongside the Wairoa A and P Show — could be held at Gisborne's Makaraka track, where just one day's racing is held each year.


There are, however, no horses in training at Wairoa, where the club's viability is maintained by sheep farming on the property between Wairoa and Frasertown.

Also impacted are Waipukurau and Woodville, both also targeted for closure over ensuing years, including doing away with training facilities.

The proposals hit small communities throughout New Zealand, but some were taking the watch-this-space approach with the proposals needing legislation to be effected, although Peters and the Government are committed to change.

Wairoa Racing Club chairman Paul Toothill has called on the communities of Gisborne and Wairoa to get together on deciding on the best future for racing in the area, but was last night commenting no further.

The club is one of the oldest in New Zealand, with a history dating back to 1879 and having raced at Te Kupenga since 1925, but has survived numerous other threats of closure, including one in which the two-day meeting in 2006 was transferred to Makaraka because the running rail and other facilities were considered sub-standard.

Hawke's Bay Racing general manager Andrew Castles, preoccupied with preparations for the first day of the Spring Racing Carnival which starts today, is planning to comment early in the new week when he's had time to consider the report in full.