To use a racing phrase, the Forbury Park Trotting Club is in
an awkward - but not hopeless - spot.
Now the question remains - will the club hit the line with
purpose or drop out to last?
The future of the club was discussed at a presentation given
by club and industry officials at Forbury Park yesterday,
detailing the work needed on the buildings, the stabling area
and other infrastructure.
What is inescapable is the need to complete $600,000 of work
to meet health and safety and regulatory requirements, which
includes piping, improvements to the members' stand to meet
increased fire regulations and refurbishing of the Plunket St
But the club's management is planning to turn the challenge
into a chance to improve the facilities at the track.
Club management put forward several proposals, including a
$1.225 million plan which includes the $600,000 improvements
and another $625,000 towards painting, another pumping
station, a winning post, car park repairs, upgrade of the
forecourt in front of the members' stand and other
Forbury Park Trotting Club president Peter Gillespie told the
70 people gathered in the members' lounge the club had
battles on four fronts - ageing infrastructure, increase in
compliance costs as as result of changes following the Pike
River mining disaster and the Canterbury earthquakes, a
decline in gaming funds and a largely uninterested membership
of 209 members.
The club's longer-term ''dream vision'' - totalling $6.13
million of improvements, upgrades and additions in an ''ideal
world'' - was presented by the club's board of management
chair John Henderson.
Funding for the project, starting with the $600,000 worth of
necessities, would come from club funds and income, land
sales, grants, sponsorship and a racing safety and
The presentation included contributions from New Zealand
Racing Board head of industry liaison Martin Burns, who
outlined the problems facing the industry across the country,
including declining turnover and field sizes.
''The industry has avoided making the hard decisions,'' Burns
Harness Racing New Zealand chief executive Edward Rennell
outlined statistics which showed 10% of the horses trained in
the South Island are trained in Otago and North-Central
Of the 2066 horses that started at Forbury Park last season,
only 739 were from Otago, with another third coming from
Canterbury and the remainder from Canterbury, Southland and
Gillespie told the Otago Daily Times after the meeting
the club needed to work in more with other racing clubs in
the lower South Island to ensure its survival.
''The club has to make some big changes,'' he said.
''Rather than us in five or six years having a crisis
meeting, we're planning now to how we're going to change
things and make necessary changes.
''We have to work together south of the Waitaki. We've
certainly got to engage with Southland more - only 47% of
trainers down there race here and they're not racing anywhere
else over winter.''
Henderson told the Otago Daily Times some of the work
had to be done in order for the club to continue after the
next five to 10 years.
''It's something that's got to happen, and for it to happen,
we've got to have the right governance structure in place to
make sure that we spend time on what is important and not
The governance will be reviewed in the next two months to
establish a stronger board of management.
Gillespie will again put forward a proposal he made last year
which would see a governing body comprised of the club
president, the vice-president, and two club-appointed members
elected at the annual meeting, along with four directors
appointed by a committee made up of three people - one
nominated by the New Zealand Racing Board, a nomination from
Harness Racing New Zealand and the Forbury Park Trotting Club
His efforts to get a new governance structure adopted last
August fell just short of the 75% approval from club members.
''It's an iconic venue and deserves good governance,''
''What some of the club members have missed entirely [is]
it's not about managing a club any more, it's about managing
a racing venue. That's a big difference.''
In an ideal world
$6.13 million wish list
• Health and safety requirements: $600,000
• Other improvements in next three years:
• New stables building: $2.25 million
• Track manager's office and ablutions:
• Track access and assembly area: $135,000
• Track upgrades: $90,000
• Champions Lawn: $45,000
• Car park reshaping and sealing: $100,000
• Additional barn capacity: $450,000
• Upgrade float park: $375,000
• Sponsors' boxes in members' stand:
• Lift access to members' stand (if required):