The race to keep the Wairoa races alive is on with Mayor Craig Little climbing-in in the hope he's not backing a longshot with a letter to Minister for Racing Winston Peters.
He says the Wairoa Racing Club has proven its viability and community support from a volunteer base, and should not be punished because of the industry's losses elsewhere throughout the country.
Formed in 1879, the club is one of the oldest racing clubs in New Zealand and stages its two-day cup meeting annually on its own Te Kupenga course, proclaiming with little apparent argument that it is "country racing at its best".
But the Racing Industry Transition Agency on July 3 confirmed Wairoa's absence from the 2020-2021 racing calendar.
With Waipukurau and the Poverty Bay Turf Club race meetings also eliminated, three of the 10 clubs stripped of their race meetings nationwide are in the Hawke's Bay-Gisborne region, where the only racing now will be in Hastings.
Having last year been told racing in Wairoa was safe for at least the next five years, Little was shocked to learn of a change of plans in late May, with barely a month to debate the proposal.
In a three-page letter Little tells Peters and the industry: "It is incredibly disappointing that we were advised we had five years of racing in front of us, to then have that ripped away after just one year – and without consultation."
"I don't know why they did a U-turn," he told Hawke's Bay Today. "The whole thing is it happened so quickly we couldn't get a submission done in time."
He said the Poverty Bay club appeared to have been aware what was happening, and is forming an agreement with Hawke's Bay Racing including racing the 2021 Poverty Bay Cup in Hastings. Some clubs in other parts of the country had succeeded with submissions and some racing was reinstated.
"We've been told it's not over yet," said Little, who expects to discuss the situation with club chairman Paul Toothill this week. "It's getting a bit late, but we've got to do something."