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Stand up and be counted . . . Punters in the main grandstand prepare for the next race at the Oamaru Racecourse on Saturday. PHOTO: CAROL EDWARDS

A project to renovate the main grandstand at Oamaru Racecourse is still on the cards, several years after it was first proposed.

In the Oamaru Harness Racing Club’s annual report for the 2015-16 financial year, distributed to club members last week, Oamaru Harness Racing Club president Dave Heffernan said the club was pushing ahead with its plans.

The project would feature the main grandstand being renovated to have the racecourse’s bar and cafe overlooking the track’s winning post.

The area underneath the grandstand, which houses the bar and cafe, would become the racecourse’s administration base and area for jockeys and drivers, while the grassed area in front of the grandstand would become the birdcage.

The facility would also cater for large conferences.

Mr Heffernan said the reasons behind the redevelopment were twofold.

“One is obviously earthquake proofing. We’re going to be forced to bring it up to percentage, and that percentage seems to be moving around all the time, and so do the dates.

“The second part is obviously the stand overlooks the winning post so it’s the focal point of the racecourse for viewing.”

He said the grandstand’s mezzanine floor, dating back to the 1970s, had become a “white elephant” and was a space that was at one time “wall to wall with punters”.

That would be expanded as part of the project.

An engineering report on the grandstand had been completed and estimated costs received, and discussions had been held with “key people” in regards to funding.

Mr Heffernan said the Oamaru Harness Racing Club and the Kurow Harness Racing Club, which holds one meeting at Oamaru Racecourse annually, were in support of the project.

However, the clubs, while in a solid financial position, could not be expected to pay the entire cost if the project was to go ahead.

“It’s not like we can’t afford it, but I wouldn’t like to exhaust the funds of the Oamaru and Kurow clubs to do it . . .we need to look at what percentage of the balance would be funded.”

He declined to reveal the likely cost of the project.

Meanwhile, the club continued to support the idea of a “North Otago hub for harness racing clubs” as opposed to the “Otago super club model”, Mr Heffernan said in the annual report.

Last year, Harness Racing New Zealand proposed that the country’s’s 45 racing clubs be merged into nine “super clubs”.

The Otago super club would be made up of Forbury Park (Dunedin), Tuapeka, Oamaru, Kurow, Waimate, Roxburgh, Central Otago and Waikouaiti.

Mr Heffernan said the idea of a North Otago hub had strong support, and discussions were ongoing.

The Oamaru Harness Racing Club posted a surplus of $7256 for the financial year.