Whanganui and Waverley's race clubs have breathed a sigh of relief they weren't earmarked for closure in a major review into the racing industry.

Up to 20 racetracks are facing closure and the TAB could be outsourced to an overseas operator after Australian racing administrator and breeder John Messara's report was released in Hamilton on Thursday.

Waverley and Whanganui's tracks were not in the list of 20 recommended to be culled over the next six years.

In the central North Island area Hawera, Stratford, Waipukurau, Woodville and Wairoa were identified as venues that could be closed to cut costs and raise revenue for the remaining 28 courses.


Wanganui Racecourse operations manager Bret Field, described the report as "bloody good news" for the tracks proposed to stay open.

Bret Field from Wanganui Racecourse said the Messara report was awaited with bated breath.
Bret Field from Wanganui Racecourse said the Messara report was awaited with bated breath.

"I guess everyone was waiting for this report with bated breath," he said.

"I'm very happy for both our club and Waverley ... I do see in there that as per 2024/25 both Whanganui and Waverley are still recorded as racing and training venues.

"That's great for our mid-term security, who knows what'll happen from there."

Field said they had been given indications of what the report might be recommending a couple of months ago.

"One of John Massara's representatives visited us, as well as an NZTR rep, so we sort of had the heads up.

"The culling of the clubs has probably been in the 'too hard to do' basket for many years. But nationally, it had to be done from an infrastructure point of view. There were just too many clubs. Especially the smaller clubs like Stratford and that - they only race once a year. And you're sitting on a big facility there probably incurring costs."

Waverley's Sam Lennox had a lot of sympathy for the 20 tracks earmarked for closure in the report.
Waverley's Sam Lennox had a lot of sympathy for the 20 tracks earmarked for closure in the report.

Waverley Race Club president Sam Lennox read as much of the 86 page report as soon as he could on Thursday night.


"It looks like we're one of the lucky ones that are going to carry on," he said.

"They're talking strategically in district by district. They've kept one open in Wairarapa, they've kept one in Gisborne and just one in Hawke's Bay, Whanganui and then we're just down the road. So we are probably geographically pretty lucky to stay I'd say."

Lennox had a lot of sympathy for the 20 clubs facing extinction.

"It's easy for me to sit here and say it's a great idea ... I'm only talking in regards to the closure of the tracks ... it'd be hard if you were one of the clubs like Hawera and stuff that have been earmarked to go.

"It's probably a long-term benefit to the industry, this is a pretty clever guy who's looked at it but you've got to feel for those clubs I reckon, especially those smaller trainers that are based out of those clubs. They're pretty much going to have to either give up training or move to a different centre."

He said good upkeep was one of the reasons Waverley was recommended to stay.

"Waverley's been pretty proactive. They look at buildings and things and we've demolished an old, old building and rebuilt a modern facility - that might have worked in our favour a bit.

"Also the main thing to be perfectly honest is we're leasehold, we don't own our land at Waverley. They can't sell it ... they're closing a lot of these tracks and pretty much saying they've got to be sold and the money will go to a big pot to put into all the other tracks."

Hawera has one of the few jumping venues in the region and Field said he was asked if Wanganui Racecourse would be able to take on extra race days.

"There's not many that have jumps racing in the CD [Central District]. We are a jumps venue. When you take away a jumping venue like that they're going to have to reschedule them somewhere so it was indicated when they came and met with us, they did ask us if we were able to take more racing, so we could benefit.

"I think there's something like 58 meetings from the culled clubs that have to go somewhere. That's a lot. It will be interesting to see how all the other tracks can cope with that."

Lennox said Waverley would also be open to having Hawera's patrons race there.

"Hawera Racing Club could stay as a club but they'd have to pick another facility to race at. They were recommended to race at New Plymouth but we'd be open to it if they wanted to have a meeting at Waverley.

"We're 30 minutes away - where it's probably an hour away to New Plymouth. If that report was to go on we'd be open to taking extra days if they were available."