The Future of Forbury Park
Forbury Park, Dunedin’s former home of harness and greyhound racing, has closed. Following the closure, Harness Racing NZ held a community consultation on the future of the site, asking for feedback and ideas on what people would like to see the property used for.
Consultation was open from Tuesday 17 August until Tuesday 5 October, 2021. Consultation has now ended.
About the consultation
On 31 July, Forbury Park in St Clair, Dunedin, closed to racing. This presented an exciting opportunity to consider how the site could be used in the future.
The 12.2 hectare property offers one of the biggest pieces of available land in the greater Otago District. Harness Racing NZ wanted to learn what local residents, organisations and the wider Dunedin community thought the property should be used for.
Four potential options had been proposed for the site, and people were asked to have their say on them, as well as suggest their own ideas.
All feedback from the consultation is being considered by Harness Racing NZ and Forbury Park Trotting Club during negotiations about the site and the potential selection of a buyer for it.
The proposed options
- A mix of residential properties from low cost to high end housing. This could include some multi-level apartments.
- Water detention areas. These are likely to be part of any development because of the low-lying nature of this part of South Dunedin.
- Retaining some of Forbury Park’s current buildings.
- Some of the site being used to increase St Clair School’s playing fields.
Community drop-in sessions
As part of the consultation, two community drop-in sessions were held in Dunedin on 20 and 21 September 2021. These were an opportunity to learn more about the consultation and provide feedback.
About Forbury Park
Forbury Park is one of the country’s oldest racing venues and has, until now, been Dunedin’s home of harness and greyhound racing.
The 12.2 hectare park is located in South Dunedin, close to St Clair beach.
Key features of the site include:
- Two stands – one old and one very old.
- A bar, restaurant and takeaway venue.
- Three cell towers – one off Victoria Road and one at each end of the old stand.
- Horse stables.
- It is near the sea and has a high water table.
- It is on low lying land and has the potential to assist in flood mitigation.
- The site is one of very few available pieces of land in South Dunedin or Dunedin.
- The property is zoned Residential A in the Dunedin City Council District Plan.
Why Forbury Park has closed
On 8 July 2021, Forbury Park held its last race meeting and it is now closed for racing. This decision was made following a review commissioned by Racing NZ into the future success and sustainability of harness racing in the Otago/Southland region.
The closure is part of a wider issue for harness racing in New Zealand. The country has too many racing venues and many need significant upgrades to bring them up to the standard expected from today’s racegoers.
Feedback from stakeholders during the review found that most people were in favour of Forbury Park closing. They felt the most prominent infrastructure was tired and the cost of repairing it would be significant. The operating and management costs were also high.
While many people were in favour of the Park closing, we know there are also many Otago racegoers who will feel the loss of this long-standing racetrack. Closing the Park will however help to benefit the future of racing in the region.
Forbury Park’s history
Forbury Park was first used by the Otago Jockey Club from 1871 to 1899, before the Club moved to a new venue at Wingatui. Soon after, Forbury Park was purchased by Tahuna Park Trotting Club for £6,250 ($12,000). The Club’s site at Tahuna Park had become too small and the decision was made to purchase Forbury Park and lay a 1000m track. On 26 November 1909, a total of 12,000 racegoers attended Forbury Park’s first meeting on the track, paying just five cents to watch the racing unfold.
Since then, the Forbury Park Trotting Club has used the 12.2 hectare site for decades of harness and greyhound racing events. Given its size and abundance of open space, it has also been used for many other outdoor activities.
Perhaps the most memorable year for the Club was 1965 when it hosted the Interdominions – Australasia’s premier harness racing event. Celebrated in local media as “the biggest money-spinner for Dunedin since the Goldrush”, it was the first Interdominions to be held outside Christchurch or Auckland in its long history. With £106,000 spent on a new stand, and attracting more than 52,000 spectators across four days, the Interdominions was considered a major event for Dunedin.
The last day of racing at Forbury Park was on 8 July 2021, which saw a great send off from 1,000 attendees.
Why has Forbury Park closed for racing?
The decision to close the Park was made following a report commissioned by Racing NZ into the future sustainability and success of thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing in Otago/Southland.
Harness Racing NZ has taken the report’s advice to close Forbury Park as the venue is no longer financially viable or meeting the needs of the region’s harness racing enthusiasts. Forbury Park held its last race meeting on 8 July 2021.
The closure is part of a wider issue for racing in New Zealand. The country has too many racing venues and many require upgrades to bring them up to the standards expected by today’s racegoers.
Is Forbury Park going to be sold?
Yes, the site will be sold. Through the consultation, Harness Racing NZ and Forbury Park Trotting Club aimed to understand what the community and others interested in the site thought should happen to it, prior to selecting a buyer.
Who could have a say on the future of Forbury Park?
Everyone with an interest in the future of Forbury Park was encouraged to make a submission.
Why was the community consulted?
At 12.2 hectares, Forbury Park is one of the largest pieces of available land in the Otago District. Given its prominent size, location and its well-established place in Dunedin’s history we know that many people have an interest in the site’s future.
How is feedback being used?
All submissions are being taken into account when future plans for the site are considered.
How do I find out about any future plans for Forbury Park?
We will endeavour to email everyone who supplied their email address during the consultation. We will also put the information on our website, notify the media, and post on our social media pages.