Some disenchanted stake holders intend to vent their spleen at the state of the racing industry during a New Zealand Racing Board "informal meeting" at the Hawke's Bay Racing Club in Hastings tomorrow.
"Racing in New Zealand is equal to the GDP returns of the fishing and wine industries and yet we are just pushed to the back seat from the Government," top Hastings trainer John Bary said yesterday before the 10.30am until midday talks, the first of six leading to Westport, Christchurch, Wingatui, Auckland and Hamilton.
"A lot of people in the industry still feel let down by the New Zealand Racing Board in the country," Bary said.
The John Messara review and Racing Minister Winston Peters' recent announcement of the next steps in the process will be the thrust of the discussions.
Board CEO John Allen is hoping to see as many Bay stake holders as possible to reveal NZRB's role in securing the industry's future.
"These gatherings are always a free and frank conversation about the industry and the TAB's role in it going forward," Allen said.
"The TAB's Fixed Odds Betting platform was launched in January and we've made strong progress on other NZRB priorities designed to significantly lift investment across racing," he said.
However, Bary was sceptical of not just Allen's visit but the performance of his predecessors.
"Whatever they do impacts directly on us," he said, emphasising a review committee had been appointed to look at what aspects of the Messara report should be adopted.
Allen had come here as part of a NZ Racing roadshow soon after he was appointed and the trainer had been transparent about how the CEO was going to perform, he said.
"That was because I had seen three other CEOs come in before him and achieved zero," he said.
"Now it's my chance to go to him to ask, 'What have you done?', because in my opinion he hasn't done much."
"You've spent $51 million on a new website that frustrates me and just about everyone else. Where's the returns to the industry?"
"We're all very unhappy because there's been, for the want of a better word, a lot of political bulls**t and nothing has been done in his time.
"He spent $51 million on a new TAB platform and the [stake] money has stayed there or thereabouts so it's still the same," he said. "The mid-week prizemoney is still 10 grand at best."
Bary said the Totalisator Agency Board (TAB) was set up in 1951 to return monies to the racing industry but that had not transpired.
"The wage bill of the New Zealand Racing Board has gone up from $20 million about seven years ago — ball park — to 60 something in the last eight to nine years."
Bary said the returns to the industry participants, that is the owners, hadn't been three-fold, akin to the wages of the NZRB.
In New Zealand, the TAB owns a near-national free-to-air and national subscription TV service. The NZRB replaced TAB in 2003 although its physical premises have retained the agency's branding.
While the TAB website wasn't his area of expertise, Bary said the burning question was whether the NZRB should have "outsourced" the betting.
"You know, those guys in Australia spend millions in research, development and security on their betting platform so you have to wonder if we could have piggy-backed off them.
"That is one of the biggest questions in the Messara report."
Bary said the industry couldn't get too hung up on track closures around the country.
"Track closures are the fourth or fifth most important thing on the Messara report.
"For me, it's that simple — you've got to get the returns to the owners.
"How do you do it? I don't know because I'm just a horse trainer. I'm not on that racing board and I'm not on that [Messara] report so I also haven't got the time to sit down to work out how you do it."
Bary said Messara had compiled the report without pay but the Government had yet to act on it almost six months later.
The Government, he said, had engaged another board to look at the report to see how the recommendations were going to be implemented.
"I said it to the other three guys before him [Allen] and they just came along to take their pay cheques and move on to the next thing.
"That's the frustrating thing — we're still here," he said.
"He's the fourth CEO I've seen in 10 seasons and they still do nothing."
Bary said when the stake holders looked across the ditch to Australia their prize money was rising exponentially "beyond belief".
"I know they've got the population, I know they've got more money to put in but as outsiders you look at their local government and you find they get in behind the racing industry so much."