New Zealand government expects growth from racing body

Minister for Racing in New Zealand, Winston Peters has outlined his expectations or the country’s new Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA), where he has said that he anticipates the national horse racing industry to grow sustainably.

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

Targets will include taking decisions to commercially benefit the market, while allowing it to positively contribute to the New Zealand economy. Another target is ensuring a NZ$3.5m contribution from the Crown is invested wisely.

Also on Peters’ agenda of tasks for RITA is determining where funding from the planned point of consumption levy on bookmakers is to be allocated, while looking at whether the TAB betting business should be outsourced to a third party.

It must implement 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 has come to warn that as much money as possible should be allocated to prize pots, opposed to industry overheads.

The government has placed further emphasis on customers, where they have said that the body must embed a customer service ethos that invests efforts into keeping promises, being realistic in making promises and delivering on target.

As a way to ensure that 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, while also ensuring that efforts are taken to minimise any potential harm from gambling.

Peters has also set out more general expectations for the new body, which include 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 to this, RITA should be providing core accountability documents as and when required.

Peters said: “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.

“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.”

While RITA is currently seeking a new chief executive after John Allen announced this month that he will be standing down from the role at the end of the year, Allen will be staying on until Christmas in order to support the transition to a new CEO.

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