It's said that New Zealand once had a dominant culture of rugby, racing and beer.

But if evidence was needed that those days are over - it came this week.

A wide-ranging review of New Zealand racing released showed an industry in need of a major revamp to stay afloat and relevant.

Many probably didn't realise how big racing was (and still is to a degree) in New Zealand and the fact that it gets its own minister.


It's not surprising really.

While revellers make an occasion of a few big meetings, some race days seem to attract not many more than those closely associated with the industry. (Proposed changes are expected to boost Whanganui's track).

Then, last weekend just 4000 people turned up to watch Taranaki defend the Ranfurly Shield – the greatest prize in domestic rugby – against rivals Manawatu in New Plymouth.

Despite the stands being closed at Yarrow Stadium, that is still a staggering number given that two decades ago around 30,000 turned up to the same ground for Shield rugby.

New Zealanders' beer consumption is falling too as a younger generation trade quantity for quality.

Rod Derrett's hit song in 1964 – Rugby, racing and beer – talked of a singular and inwardly focused mainstream culture in this country but that has been slowly diversifying since.

When writer Nick Bollinger spoke at the Whanganui Literary Festival last year he said that started in 1970s when "You had the 'sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll' culture and then 'rugby, racing and beer' living uneasily side by side."

A change has kept accelerating.

It's not really anything to do with failure of our previous loved pastimes and they are still big.

It's just that there are now one of the many choices people have in terms of what they spend their time on and there are so many more interests people want to pursue.

Our cultural broadening may be hurting a few sports or industries but it's a small price to pay for a having country that, thankfully, now offers its people so much more than just rugby, racing and beer.