Thoroughbred racing bosses vowing to listen.

The closure of 20 racetracks around the country suggested in the Messara report is far from a done deal.

And thoroughbred racing bosses say they will listen to cases put forward by those clubs whose tracks are facing the axe.

The Messara review of racing was released by Racing Minister Winston Peters on Thursday and the most emotionally jarring recommendation was the closure of 20 thoroughbred tracks to save costs and in some cases for the land to be sold to contribute to racing's future.

The economics of closing at least some of New Zealand's 48 thoroughbred tracks is indisputable, the major problem being nobody wants it to be their club.


Although those behind the jewel in the crown of racetrack closure, Avondale, won't officially comment on the proposed sale of their track with the money to go into industry coffers, they have raged against the dying of the light for decades so don't look likely to sell up and give up.

Others such as Rotorua and Timaru, who between them have 18 meetings this season, are simply against closure and believe their local communities will be too.

"We have a meeting to discuss the report, and obviously our recommended closure, next week," said Rotorua chairman Andrew Bryant.

"But I am absolutely certain we will make our case to stay open. We are disappointed because we were never consulted about any of this.

"And even if the about 50 per cent of the track we own outright was ever closed and sold, I am sure the local community would want that money staying in Rotorua, not going to meetings in Tauranga.

"I don't think that makes long-term sense."

Timaru president Noel Walker says their track is the best racing surface in the South Island and the industry wouldn't be getting any of the club's money.

Although the track closures were a key recommendation of the Messara report, NZTR boss Bernard Saundry says the 20 tracks suggested are not all certain to close. "Obviously we can't survive with 48 tracks, we can't afford to run them all and I think everybody in the industry agrees on that," says Saundry.


"But the minister was very open about the fact there would be room for consultation and we will listen to what clubs have to say, of course we will.

"Some clubs may want to sell and then restructure and we will listen to their ideas."

While Messara's list is a starting point and the majority of the tracks mooted for closure will almost certainly do so, few people at even the highest levels of New Zealand racing have yet got their heads around how the acquisition of any funds from those sales will go.

The exact legal footing under which New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing can annex the proceeds from any racetracks sold was hazy to most of the dozens of industry participants the Weekend Herald spoke to yesterday.

Confusing matters further, the three codes have been working together on their own future venue plan, to be released in October, and some of the tracks Messara has suggested closing were not on the code's hit list so could be saved.

Chopping block
The 20 tracks mooted for closure are:
Dargaville, Avondale, Thames, Rotorua, Wairoa, Stratford, Hawera, Waipukurau, Woodville, Reefton, Greymouth, Hokitika, Motukarara, Timaru, Kurow, Oamaru, Waimate, Omakau, Winton and Gore.