NZ government expects new racing body to return industry to growth

25 September 2019

New Zealand’s Minister for Racing, Winston Peters, has outlined his expectations for the country’s new Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA), saying that he anticipates the body leading the national horse racing industry to sustainable growth.

RITA, which replaced the New Zealand Racing Board in July, has been tasked with overseeing a root-and-branch overhaul of  the country’s racing industry. It is seen as a temporary governing body to manage the sector while a new governance structure is developed, with Peters setting out the key targets he wants it to plan to meet in its 2019-20 fiscal year.

This will include taking decisions to commercially benefit the market and allow it to positively contribute to the New Zealand economy, and ensuring a NZ$3.5m contribution from the Crown is invested wisely.

Peters has also tasked RITA with determining where funding from the planned point of consumption levy on bookmakers is to be allocated, and to look at whether the TAB betting business should be outsourced to a third party. It must implment a financial structure to ensure it does not run short of funds, which is to be achieved in part by operational efficiencies, and commercial income from broadcasting rights. He warned that as much money as possible should be allocated to prize pots, rather than industry overheads.

The government placed further emphasis on customers, saying the body must embed a customer service ethos that invests efforts into keeping promises, being realistic in making promises and delivering on target. To ensure there is no decline in public trust of the industry, Peters has asked RITA to liaise with consumers to ensure betting is carried out in a fair manner, and that efforts are taken to minimise any potential harm from gambling.

Peters also set out more general expectations for the new body, including a focus on ensuring increased diversity and gender balance on boards, and managing any potential or perceived conflicts of interest with its board.

The board should have an open and transparent way of working with both the Minister’s office and the Department, while RITA should file regular financial reports with the Minister at least four weeks following the end of each quarter. In addition, RITA should provide core accountability documents as and when required.

“The government remains committed to resolving key long-term challenges facing the country including sustainable economic development, increased exports, decent jobs paying higher wages, a healthy environment and a fair society and good government,” Peters said.

“The racing industry is well positioned to contribute to addressing these challenges. The industry is part of the social fabric and history of New Zealand and contributes significantly to the national economy, particularly in rural areas, among youth and in the bloodstock industry.”

RITA is currently seeking a new chief executive after John Allen announced this month that he will stand down from the role at the end of the year. Allen will stay on until Christmas to support the transition to a new CEO.