Should it stay or should it go?

The answer to whether or not the Rotorua Racecourse should close alongside 19 other race tracks around the country has divided the city with many Rotorua residents vocal in their wish to maintain the status quo and others just as vocal in their belief the nation's racing industry is in dire straits.

In a report titled Review of the New Zealand Racing Industry, overseen by top racing administrator and breeder John Messara and commissioned by Racing Minister Winston Peters, 17 recommendations have been made.

Among them is one to reduce the number of race tracks from 48 to 18 within the next six years. If the recommendations are followed, Rotorua's Arawa Park track will be closed from the 2023/24 season.


Tamati Coffey, Waiariki MP, believes the review needed to happen to "give Aotearoa's racing industry the best future possible".

"There is much korero ahead," Coffey said.

"This is an early recommendation from industry, not a decision from the office of the Honourable Winston Peters.

"I will now be engaging and consulting with Rotorua's racing industry to hear their thoughts on how we can best champion investment in our city through the process ahead, utilising the fact nowhere else offers families such a complete package in terms of accommodation and post racing-entertainment, and grow our local economy."

In contrast, Rotorua MP Todd McClay said the Government should not close the Rotorua Racecourse.

"It is a very popular and well respected course around the region.

"I've received calls from local voters concerned about the Labour-NZ First plan to close down racing in our city.

"We host races on behalf other clubs in Rotorua because we are more centrally located and our facilities are better. Rather than a government death sentence, Arawa Park should become a first rate regional racing facility for the Bay of Plenty."

He said he had spoken to club members on Monday and would be meeting to support their campaign to keep racing in Rotorua.

New Zealand First list MP Fletcher Tabuteau said it was too early to discuss the matter.

"What we have seen at this stage is simply a report with recommendations from a racing expert.

"This will now start an important conversation across all three codes within the racing industry. Until this in-depth discussion takes place there is nothing really to discuss, that is, we are not in a position to even comment on anything yet because nothing has actually been decided."

Meanwhile Rotorua District councillor Charles Sturt has made his opinion loud and clear on social media.

"Like I said on Facebook, people need to read the report from start to finish," Sturt said.

"Only then can they make an informed decision."

Sturt compared the amount of New Zealand galloping tracks (58 for 4.5 million people) with racetracks in Sydney (three for 6 million people).

"Many of the recommendations made in this last report were suggested [and ignored] 10 years ago because of parochialism. The industry is in financial trouble and if we want to maintain it, we need change.

"People need to think of the industry as a whole, and not be self-serving within the communities where the tracks are."

If the Rotorua Racecourse were to close, discussions would then have to begin about what to do with the land originally gifted by Ngāti Whakaue for the purpose of leisure activities.

Pukeroa Oruawhata chairman Malcolm Short confirmed the land was "gifted reserve".

"It's still very early days," Short said.

"I have no doubt that further down the track we will have conversations with the Racing Club, but that will be in due course.

"I understand the recommendations need to go through consultation with the powers that be so it's a bit premature for me to say anything just now."