Industry Update from the Chair

Once again, we enter a period of uncertainty and restrictions with the Omicron Covid variant in our community. Our priority is to keep racing going, albeit with restricted numbers and movement on track. Under the red traffic light level, the stable and birdcage areas are deemed a workplace so owners, sponsors and corporate guests will not be able to enter those areas. This is to protect our participants. I remind trainers to review their policies as to who enters their training facilities at this time and adhere to the protocols around social distancing and mask wearing. Make no mistake, with the Government mandate on isolation we do not have the depth in driving ranks, starters, crash crews, judges, St Johns or even the RIB personnel in some parts of the country to operate if large numbers of our sport’s participants are isolating at the same time. While many may have the view that Covid will affect others, we are not bullet proof. Do everything you can to keep safe, including getting your booster. We all have a part to play in keeping the racing going.

What affect this latest Covid scare will have on the TAB’s performance only time will tell. Fortunately, after five months of trading in the 2021/22 budget year the TAB are tracking at $3.4 million above budget. We don’t know yet the affect rising inflation, the cost of living and a prolonged period of being in Red level will have on our sport or the TAB. What does give me confidence is the financial policies that the HRNZ Board has put in place over the last two years that puts HRNZ in a stronger position to ride out any disruption.

You would have seen on HRNZ news that two of our sport’s participants, junior driver Alicia Harrison and stable hand Danielle Green, were involved in a serious head on car accident recently. On behalf of our sport, I wish them well for a full and speedy recovery and I look forward to seeing them back at Cambridge Raceway in the near future.

The summer has seen some excellent racing with good crowds and pleasing turnovers. Thank you to all the volunteers and committees who have worked tirelessly over the last year to ensure the success of these meetings, particularly where much of our summer racing is staged by clubs that only race once or twice in a year. I am grateful to Gary Woodham and Catherine McDonald, who between them attended a number of meetings to gain a better understanding of the contribution these race days and the clubs make to the success of our business. The last year has shown that the management of HRNZ are not desk bound but are in fact out and consulting with the sport.

The draft dates calendar is out for consultation and I remind clubs to follow the process for consultation, which doesn’t include making alarmist comments in local or national media. In the end the TAB controls the outcome and HRNZ is charged with getting the best available days and dates that give us the opportunity to get the best return for the whole sport.

The awards function for last season will have to take a different format now due to number restrictions. More information regarding this will be available on the HRNZ website in the near future.

At the HRNZ Board meeting on 26 January we welcomed Shaun Brooks to the HRNZ Board as ATC appointee. Shaun brings a rich background in governance, finance and sport knowledge to the table that will add value as we move forward in shaping this sport for the future. The Board of Harness Racing New Zealand meets again for a strategy day and board meeting on 8 and 9 March.

Over the next week Sundees Son will be attempting to become the second New Zealand trotter, after the great I Can Doosit, to win over $1 million dollars in stakes solely in this country. I wish the connections well and thank them for their commitment to racing their horse in New Zealand.

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