New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing isn't asking rural venues, such as Waipukurau Jockey Club, to evaporate into thin air, says New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing board director Jason Fleming.

"I've been closely involved with the club but, you know, the reality is we're in a space where we've got reality over sentiment," says Fleming, who also was Hawke's Bay Racing CEO from 2009 until August 2015.

He says the NZTR's Future Venue Plan, proposing to gradually cease operations at 21 small-town venues in the country by 2030, is about using assets in a more sustainable manner when there's better facilities a short way up the road.

"It's about making New Zealand racing fit the purpose and geographically tighter."


When contacted yesterday, HB Racing chief executive Andrew Castles said he didn't have the chance to read fully the NZTR future plan but understood Waipukurau wasn't slated to close until 2024-25 season and that also was subject to a synthetic track option operating at Awapuni in Manawatu.

"There is much debate, consultation and discussion to be had before Waipukurau ceases racing [at its venue]," Castles said.

However, Fleming says Waipuk is a classic example of where stake holders aren't in a position to promote participation, especially if the dwindling trend in numbers continue for the entire sector, whether it be owners, trainers, jockeys or hunting.

"We're just not going to have an industry so the decisions we're making now on sustainability are just about maintaining the industry as it is, as it evaporates before our eyes."

While Fleming sees the need to switch from a mind set of travelling 45 minutes to Hastings from a venue at one's doorstep, he emphasises the reality is the marquee venue in the Bay has to become the centre of growth and prosperity.

"It's a zoned structure in terms of its location and the buildings so those things are going to be addressed in the future."

He says Waipukurau, unfortunately, is part of the crossfire of a really supportive community.

"They're still going to be able to race just up the road even though the reality is that even though the volunteers who put all their time at the jockey club are not getting any younger.


"It used to be a pragmatic approach and Waipukurau racing at Hastings is a commonsense approach to enable racing in Hawke's Bay to grow."

He rules out any romantic notions of preserving the Waipuk buildings in the mould of historic places trust venues because of the dire need to channel resources into upholding health and safety obligations.

Fleming suspects the jockey club may sell its property one day but says it's not NZTR's initiative as a focus area for racing prospects in the province.

While he isn't privy to what HB Racing has made public knowledge he understands there's a solution that works for HB A&P Showgrounds and the racing club.

He believes "it should never leave the table" considering they are "evolving" locations in the centre of the city and just near it.

Fleming says the preference is for Wairoa club to race at Gisborne although Hastings is an option.

Woodville, he says, should gravitate towards Awapuni as a hub as a "natural" choice because it has more capacity compared with Dannevirke, for argument's sake.