Avondale residents say their more than a century old racecourse would be best transformed into what they need more of: housing.

The Avondale racecourse sits on prime land on the city's fringe and close to motorways and public transport links.

It was estimated today the land could be worth up to $200 million if sold off to developers.

A report commissioned by Minister for Racing Winston Peters and overseen by top Australian racing administrator and breeder John Messara, has proposed sweeping changes to fix the country's ailing racing industry.

The cost-cutting changes include closing up to 20 racetracks nationwide, including Avondale.

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It was also suggested that TAB be outsourced to an overseas operator.

For the most part, local residents told the Herald the news about Avondale Racecourse didn't come as a surprise.

Barry Gotty has lived on and off in Avondale for the past 50 years.

"I think it's good news. It opens up the potential for ... housing development," he says.

"It's a huge hunk of land that seems to me in this modern day, inappropriate that you have a big racecourse sitting out here in potentially residential development."

Resident Darryl Hema thinks it's also a good move.

"Simply because being ratepayers in this area here, you're paying for a racecourse that's only used twice a year."

But resident Duncan McDonald thinks it's a devastating blow.

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"It's an icon of Avondale, it's been here for 100 plus years. It's still operating well, they're racing down there. Oh, it's terrible," he sighs.

McDonald is worried a number of 10-storey apartment blocks will be built there.

He says the racecourse is relied on by the community for a whole lot of other non-racing activities.

"There's six or eight football fields and cricket fields ... all of that will probably go. It's a huge loss of green space for the whole area, not just Avondale. It's not good."

And then there's the famed Avondale Sunday Market, also held on site.

"The markets are all part of Avondale's scene," McDonald says. "With them gone, oh that's just more bad news."

Sim Motufau agrees. "I think it's dumb. I don't think they should close it because ... it means something to people."

Local real estate director at Harcourts Shelter Realty, Bobby Sapra, says the huge space the racetrack takes up could be put to far better use.

He says there's huge demand for more housing in the area but not enough houses to sell.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Auckland urban regeneration agency, Panuku, says the proposed closure of the racecourse provides an excellent opportunity for Avondale.

"It has the potential to significantly contribute to the housing supply in Auckland."

"While the long-term future of the racecourse is considered as part of the recommendations from the Review of the New Zealand Racing Industry, Panuku will continue to work with key stakeholders such as the Avondale Jockey Club to seek positive outcomes from the site and protect its huge potential," the spokesperson says.

Presenting the report in Hamilton on Thursday night, Peters said: "We will ensure that every region retains at least one track so there is racing there."

"And we will consult with the industry on these tracks that are to be closed. But we have to change, even if it is unpopular."

While track closures will mean minimal loss of full-time jobs, the outsourcing of the NZRB's gaming licence will effectively mean the closure of much of the New Zealand TAB and that could mean significant job losses.

But Peters says that will be balanced by the economic benefits and jobs retained or created by a more profitable racing industry.



A transition agency (Racing Industry Transition Agency or RITA) will be put in place to oversee racing's changing landscape.

That outsourcing and the dismantling of the New Zealand Racing Board will not only require Cabinet support but almost certainly changes to the Racing Act.

"But change must come," Peters said. "This is a now or never moment for racing. It is reform or die."

The reduction of tracks from 48 to 28 is planned to be finalised by 2024.