The Labour Government's support of the racing industry was firmly signalled after its landslide election victory in 2020 and its commitment is ongoing, new Racing Minister Kieran McAnulty has emphasised.
McAnulty achieved a personal goal when he recently took over the role and dismissed any concern racing had a lesser seat at the Cabinet table after succeeding Deputy Prime Minster Grant Robertson.
"I think the signal from the Government was pretty clear after the last election when it kept racing as a separate portfolio," the MP for Wairarapa said yesterday.
"People suggested that given the Deputy Prime Minister had Sports and Racing that the Prime Minister might want to combine the two.
"She said the Government sees racing as a significant and important industry for New Zealand and it deserves to have its own minister.
"That sends a signal to the industry that this Government, regardless as to who is the minister, takes it very seriously.
"It's not an also ran, it's a prominent front-runner. Racing is a significantly important export industry to this country and provides just as much as the fishing industry to our GDP and no one is suggesting we get rid of the Minister for Fisheries."
McAnulty also has skin in the game having spent seven years as a TAB bookmaker, as an owner and with overseas experience of the industry.
"I would be reluctant to suggest that I am more passionate or capable than previous ministers, but I am very happy to say that this role is something I personally wanted," he said.
"I am passionate about the racing industry, not just because I enjoy it or as a participant in it through working for the TAB or as a previous owner in a horse, but because I want to see it thrive.
"While I recognise there is more competition for the entertainment dollar these days, I still want to be able to play my part in securing it's future and not just the three codes, but also the sporting codes that rely on the success of the racing industry."
Competition from offshore wagering operations presents an issue and steps have been taken to see they make returns to the industry.
"If the racing industry is doing well, that means the clubs are doing well and the sporting codes are doing well and that flows down because we know racing is a significant employer in rural New Zealand.
"It's a challenge from overseas competitors because they don't contribute like the TAB, although this Government has brought in a requirement that they do and that has already started to see some revenue flow back.
"The second challenge is the social licence. People involved in racing are passionate about the industry and they are passionate about horses and dogs," McAnulty said.
While the report provided by Australasian racing and breeding supremo John Messara recommended the outsourcing of the TAB, that is an area still up for discussion.
"All I'll say is that while the Messara Report was commissioned by the Government, it isn't Government policy and I am keen to ensure that any future legislation that impacts the industry, at the core of that is the benefits of it are for racing and sporting bodies," McAnulty said.
"I am not interested in anything that takes away from funding them. I think New Zealand has a blueprint that other countries could learn from in terms of how we continue support the industry through the structure of the TAB."
Rationalisation of New Zealand racetracks has been another hot topic and one that McAnulty would like to see dealt with at a local level.
"I think the initial proposal was that there should be a racetrack remaining in each region and I want to observe that," he said.
Covid-19 had a severe impact on the availability of overseas workers within the racing and breeding industries and with borders opening, McAnulty is keen to take full advantage of opportunities that provided.
"The racing industry is not alone in its challenges to find labour and I am keen to play my part and promote the career opportunities within racing," he said.
More innovative options now needed to be implemented to advance career pathways.
"In a tight labour market, there is so much competition so I'm keen to do what I can. The borders opening will help."
- NZ Racing Desk