Just two years after a $400,000 grandstand rebuild, racing could be taken away from the Waimate Racecourse.
The Waimate Trotting Club’s home meeting was axed from the Racing Industry Transition Agency’s (RITA) draft calendar for the 2020-21 season. It was instead allocated a race day at Oamaru Racecourse, while the Waimate Racing Club was offered a meeting at Timaru.
Racing had only returned to the community-owned track in Waimate in 2018, after a storm destroyed the main grandstand in 2013. During that time, the trotting club raced in Oamaru, and the racing club in Timaru.
RITA executive chairman Dean McKenzie cited the impacts of Covid-19 as accelerating the need for change in the industry. He also said there were too many racing venues in New Zealand and it was a commercial drain on limited industry resources
But the Waimate Trotting Club has criticised the changes, arguing the benefits of racing in the South Canterbury town outweighed any extra costs associated with it.
“Waimate people support Waimate races,” president Alex Colvill said.
“But they don’t support it when they have to travel to another town.”
The club would struggle to attract sponsors if its meeting was held out of town, Mr Colvill said.
When the trotting club hosted its own meeting in 2019, on-course turnover rose by 56%.
The Waimate Trotting Club has made a submission to RITA, outlining the reasons it wanted to continue racing at its own track.
“Significant financial investment has been made on the repairs to the course, and the facilities are regarded now as some of the best for country racing in the country,” the submission reads.
“The club appreciates the necessity to provide a racing product as efficiently and profitable as possible. However, moving the club’s race meeting away from its local support will not have this effect.
“By racing at Waimate, the board will have access to fresh interest and income that would not be available to it by racing at Oamaru.
“This income would generously exceed any increase in cost.”
RITA will consider the submissions before confirming the 2020-21 season calendar on July 3. That deadline could shift as its is understood the agency has received a large number of submissions.