Forbury Park club wants proceeds to stay in South

The Forbury Park Trotting Club will press for proceeds arising from the sale of the Dunedin raceway to be kept in the southern region, rather than dispersed nationally.

An indication the club may not get its way emerged last week, when the closed St Kilda course was sold by Harness Racing New Zealand (HRNZ) to the Dunedin City Council.

In a media release about the $13.2 million sale, HRNZ said it had long stated proceeds would be invested to benefit racing in the region, "and nationally".

"And that certainly hasn’t changed", HRNZ chairman Phil Holden said.

"It is a substantial amount of money, and we will be very prudent in how it is used and will consult widely before any decisions are made."

The raceway was for decades the home of the Forbury Park Trotting Club, but the venue became surplus to the racing industry’s requirements in 2021.

Legislation passed the previous year led to HRNZ gaining ownership rights of the disused venue.

The club is understood to be negotiating for a cut of the revenue expected to be generated from investing the lump sum provided by the council.

Forbury Park. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Forbury Park. PHOTO: ODT FILES

Club chairman Lex Williams said the club would be looking to get its share to preserve its future, but there was then the question of what would happen to the rest.

The club would take issue with the "nationally" bit of HRNZ commentary, arguing money should not disappear north of the Waitaki River, Mr Williams said.

"We will be negotiating to keep it in the southern region, because that’s where it belongs", he said.

"We’ll be strong on that point."

Mr Williams said the sale proceeds would stay in trust until there was agreement between the parties and, if the matter could not be resolved, it would end up on the desk of the Minister for Racing.

Despite no longer having its land asset, the club remained active, he said.

"We want to do a festival.

"We’re looking at the ways to keep the industry going in Otago."

HRNZ corporate services general manager Liz Bishop said the harness racing national body was in the early stages of deciding what to do with the proceeds from selling Forbury Park.

"It is important to note that the income generated from the proceeds of the sale is what will be distributed for the betterment of racing, not the lump sum per se", she said.

"This is acknowledged as the best way forward to preserve the capital of the original fund to enable income to be generated regularly", Ms Bishop said.

HRNZ would set up a committee to manage the fund and there would be widespread consultation before any decisions, "and we will be very transparent about that".

Ms Bishop said it was too early to speculate on what the regional breakdown of the distribution would look like.