New alcohol rules imposed on the Kumara Nuggets race meeting on January 14 have resulted in a sting in the tail for punters.
The Kumara Racing Club has been required to have 22 private security guards on course, instead of five, and that has pushed up the entry fee from $10 to $15.
The club applied to the Westland District Council in early October for the liquor licence, only to be met with a barrage of new requirements from health authorities, which created a "a lot of uncertainty" around being able to run the meeting next month, committee member Les Guenole said today.
The club had previously been planning to have alcohol-free areas but was instead told to hire more security guards, and was prevented from being able to advertise the meeting as BYO.
Guenole said the club was advised only this week it will be granted a licence on January 4 - just 10 days out from the biggest West Coast race meeting of the year.
"The licence is going to be issued ... we've been told by council. There's been quite a few meetings with them (but) we've had to get a lot more security on. It's business as normal."
He said the club had been forced to look outside the region to find enough suitably qualified security staff and that came at a big cost: "As a result we've had to put the admission charge up."
Previously the few security staff employed by the club were mainly to protect the tote, Mr Guenole said.
He believed the more stringent approach by the council around granting a licence did not bode well for other large scale events trying to pull in the punters, he said.
"It's an issue. When you look at the Wildfoods Festival, even the crowds there have diminished ... looking at the future, it's a bit of a worry," Guenole said.
In a statement, Westland Mayor Bruce Smith criticised the hoops the Kumara Racing Club had to go.
"Crown (Public) Health, council and the police all became involved and unrealistic restrictions were requested by these parties based on what they say is legislation," Mr Smith said.
This included "the initial refusal" to allow a BYO component of the liquor licence, which would have removed a large number of family groups who sat down with a picnic and a glass of wine or beer.
After the club "took strong exception" the agencies backed down but still insisted that BYO be removed as a reference in advertising, Mr Smith said.
He said there appeared to be no lawful requirement around what was being asked of the club.
It was a turnaround for an event which was described this year by the West Coast police in the local media as "being well run with very few problems".
Being now required to increase security numbers, along with ordinary police presence was "a draconian step," Mr Smith said.
- Greymouth Star