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Source: New Zealand Government

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Mr Speaker, I move, that the Racing Industry Bill be now read a second time.

Mr Speaker, racing has a long and proud history in New Zealand. 

And this bill closes the circle started by Sir Thaddeus McCarthy with his Royal Commission report of December 1970.

As an industry Racing is seriously important to our communities and regions.

Past studies says it contributes $1.6 billion to the economy each year.  There are 14 thousand full time racing industry jobs and nearly 58,000 jobs which participate in the industry in some shape – from vets to equipment supplies.

There are 15000 owners, 800 trainers, and 200 jockeys. 

Not only is New Zealand bloodstock world class – it is a significant export earner.

The world class quality of this industry has no better example than the Cambridge Stud horse “Hello Youmzain” winning the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at the Royal Ascot this week.

That was a genuine world class result.

Yet it has been well documented our racing industry has been underperforming over recent years.

Addressing and reversing this decline has been my focus as Minister for Racing – given weight with racing policy being part of the Coalition Agreement.

The government’s first step was to commission the Australian expert John Messara to conduct an industry wide review.

We then formed a Ministerial Advisory Committee which pulled together our own domestic experts to examine next steps.

These measures lead to the precursor Racing Reform Bill which passed through this house last year, creating the first meaningful change this industry had seen in a long time.

Significantly, the NZ Racing Board was replaced with the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA) to start a reform programme.

Officials also worked on developing further the Messara recommendations.

And now we before us we have the Racing Industry Bill – the substantive legislative response to the Messara report.

This Bill revokes the Racing Act 2003.

It provides a new governance structure for the racing industry.

It creates TAB NZ as the sole betting provider for racing and sport, and empowers the three racing codes to take responsibility for the future growth of their respective industries.

The Bill also establishes the Racing Integrity Board (RIB), an entity independent from the racing codes, which is responsible for all integrity functions for the industry.

Mr Speaker, when introduced – we said we would listen to sound submissions.

In order to address historical property issues that have contributed to the industry’s decline, the Bill introduces provisions to ensure that surplus racing property is vested back into the industry to enable its future growth.

But the provisions related to race tracks have been carefully considered and are well balanced.  They ensure there is good process and protection for community interests.

Mr Speaker, the Transport and Infrastructure Committee received written submissions from 922 submitters.

This was supplemented by many oral submissions, the vast majority expressed general support for this Bill.

Mr Speaker, the Committee has unanimously reported the Bill back to the House with proposed amendments.

The government has accepted these amendments.

The interest, and productive contributions, submitted to the members of the select committee are welcomed, and my parliamentary colleagues should be thanked for their consideration of these matters.

This Minister has been vigilant with following the progress of this bill, both listening carefully to industry, and also receiving a consistent stream of advice from officials.

The government’s objective has always been to achieve racing legislation responding to the intent of the Messara review, and to respond to the feedback of the industry. 

And this government has delivered that with a bill which reflects the government’s sense of direction.

Mr Speaker, the Government believes the racing codes need the tools to better manage their own destiny rather than be bound by legislative impediments.

The government also welcomes the provision for Racing New Zealand within the Bill to be a collaborative entity of the codes.

The Government also supports reduced ministerial involvement in the industry – as many in the industry called for. 

The overarching intent of the Bill is to be able to create the opportunity for the clubs, codes and TAB to foster their own future.

It is important to advise the House that since the Select Committee reported back further amendments have become necessary as a result of COVID-19.

The required changes will be addressed by the Government through a Supplementary Order Paper at the Committee of the Whole stage.

The Supplementary Order Paper will amend the Bill as reported back to allow the current RITA Board to remain as the inaugural TAB NZ Board until such time as new appointments can be made under the new legislation.

This recognises the delays to the passing of the Bill caused by COVID-19 would have meant that appointing a new board would occur in the pre-election period – I will leave the decisions on the substantive appointments to the TAB NZ until after the next election.

The Supplementary Order Paper will also temporarily extend the Minister for Racing’s transitional powers currently provided for in the Racing Act to allow the Minister to give direction to TAB NZ for the immediate post-COVID recovery period.

As you will be aware the government has delivered a significant rescue package for racing in the wake of COVID-19.

This investment has created a similar period of industry adjustment in which a closer degree of Government involvement is appropriate given the scale of taxpayers’ investment.

While the use of these powers may not be required, their retention allows the Minister to assist the TAB NZ board by providing clear direction through what may be a challenging time. This provision is temporary and time locked to the COVID response.

The Supplementary Order Paper also makes minor technical changes to the Bill that have come to light since the Select Committee process. These are all within the intent of the Bill and the changes made by the Select Committee.

Mr Speaker, in conclusion, let me commend this Bill to the house.

It implements urgently required reforms.

It gives the industry the tools in needs to revitalise itself.

And it is catalyst for a better future for the Racing industry. 

To accept the status quo and to do nothing would only lead to inevitable decline.

This bill will turn the industry around and get racing back on track.

And I am pleased to note that the industry is already responding and good work is underway to achieve these goals.

Accordingly, I commend this Bill to the House.