A couple of weeks ago I attended the National Yearling Sales at Karaka, along with National Party leader Simon Bridges. It was the 94th time these sales have been held for a proud and successful industry which can trace its roots back 175 years.
Today the Racing Industry in New Zealand employs more than 50,000 people, either directly or indirectly, and has an economic impact in excess of $1.6 billion a year. It is also an industry that has the ability to showcase New Zealand at an international level.
Many horses sold at the National Yearling sales go on to enjoy success in New Zealand and overseas. It's worth noting too that more than half of the Group One winners racing in Hong Kong in 2019 came via the Karaka sales; while New Zealand-bred horses have achieved similar success in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and Macau.
• Ian McKelvie: A lot has happened in 18 months
• Ian McKelvie: What happened to our boom?
• Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie doubts gun buyback will work
• Ian McKelvie: Betrayal was attempt to undermine party leadership
This year's sales certainly got off to a great start and the 2020 catalogue was impressive – a true reflection of New Zealand's reputation for breeding some of the best race horses in the world.
As National's spokesperson for racing I have a particular interest in the Racing Industry Reform Bill, which had its first reading in Parliament late last year. National was happy to support the bill through to the select committee stage to allow participants and interested parties an opportunity to have a say in the future of their industry. That time is now. Submissions to the bill closed on February 11 and will be heard by the Transport Select Committee over the next four weeks.
In fact, significant legislative change to the industry actually began with last year's Racing Reform Act, which brought into effect a period of transition as well as a number of measures to increase the financial sustainability of the industry.
The Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA) was established to see through the racing reforms and ensure the industry's revitalisation and ongoing financial viability; while at the same time providing continuity and stability in the management of the day-to-day activities of the TAB.
The organisation is chaired by Dean McKenzie and has hosted a number of meetings throughout the country to facilitate discussion around the proposed legislative changes. I went along to one in Palmerston North recently, which was well attended by a diverse mix of industry players from trainers and jockeys to veterinarians and politicians!
It is what that final legislation should look like that is currently before the Transport Select Committee. They will consider written and oral submissions from those who have expressed interest, concern, support or otherwise for the proposed new legislation.
National backed the bill at its first reading, though not without expressing some concern over a number of the proposed reforms. We'll be following the next phase closely.
As a party we believe in the future of the industry and we're keen to ensure its ongoing viability – and continued success showcasing NZ Inc on the international stage.