The racing industry will get a $72.5 million emergency support package, Racing Minister Winston Peters has announced.
"We can't gild the lily. The racing industry has been hit by the perfect storm of Covid-19 while in a weak financial state and in the midst of a reform programme," Peters said.
"As a result, there is a genuine risk of insolvency and the industry losing the future gains of its reforms.
"The Government has a respond, recover, and rebuild strategy for Covid-19. This announcement is the first step towards a long-term restoration of racing," Peters said.
The support package consists of:
• $50 million dollar relief grant for the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA)
• Up to $20 million in funding to construct two new All Weather race tracks.
• $2.5 million dollars for the Department of Internal Affairs to fast track work on the online gambling revenue, and address loss of revenue impacts on community and sport groups.
Of the immediate grant, $26 million will be used to pay RITA's outstanding supplier bill which Peters said it hadn't been able to because of "strangled revenue".
"The other share of this package will ensure RITA, and each of the racing codes, can maintain a baseline functionality and resume racing activities," Peters said.
The racing industry was "seriously underestimated" for its economic contribution and past studies had shown it contributed $1.6 billion to the economy each year, Peters said.
There are 15,000 full time racing industry jobs and nearly 60,000 jobs which participate in the industry in some shape – from vets to equipment suppliers, and owners. New Zealand bloodstock is world class and a significant export earner, Peters said.
The Government would assess recapitalisation options over the next three months.
More funding than Pharmac
The National Party's health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said the Government had approved more funding for racing than Pharmac which got a $10 million boost for the next financial year.
"There is going to be increased pressure for medicines as a result of the Covid-19 crisis and we need to be prepared. It is insulting to give more money to horses than health during a pandemic," Woodhouse said.
In Parliament this afternoon, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said there wouldn't be more funding for racing than Pharmac in the Budget.
New race tracks
The Government has also approved up to $20 million dollars from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) to construct two new synthetic race tracks - one at Awapuni in the Manawatu and the other at Riccarton Park in Christchurch.
The racing industry had also been impacted by funding to community and sport organisations drying up without gambling with more New Zealanders gambling on offshore online platforms.
The Government was fast-tracking work by the Department of Internal Affairs to re-evaluate the gambling framework of our community, sporting, and racing groups, Peters said.
"We are going to make racing great again."
Peters said the Government's intention was to regulate the offshore gambling sector and could introduce onshore online gambling in New Zealand.
He said the package wasn't a bailout for the betting industry as it was "the same approach" taken to the small business funding and media package, both of which he supported.
Peters said they'd "had enough of old men leaning against the rails, scratching their derrieres and blaming everybody else" in the racing industry.
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Peters' pre-Budget announcement comes amid a slew of other spending announcements.