At the recent National Council meeting, Jamie Gameson outlined progress on the establishment of the Canterbury Racing Bureau, which he described as progressing, but hard work. The new HRNZ website would facilitate the ease of trainer notifications and other day to day functions for trainers.
In his report on the Southland Branch, Geoff Knight advised that plans were in place to employ 3 paid starters’ assistants in the area, with the balance being made up of Juniors and cadets. It was expected that the employment of Clerks of the Course would follow.
Greater Canterbury chair Ken Barron repeated his concerns at the lack of support for Branch meetings, although it was possible improved communications were making it easier for members to keep up with current happenings. Branch representatives had met recently with new Addington CEO Brian Thompson, and he had held a one on one meeting with Peter Jensen. Ken expressed deep concern at the current relationship between the RIU and horsemen in Canterbury due to on-going legal issues, describing it as lacking respect and toxic. The meeting agreed that this was most unhealthy and some urgent action should be taken to address the situation.
Northern Chair Jay Abernethy reported that the ATC Racing Committee, which included several trainers, was working well, and that Junior drivers would soon be able to claim concessions in races in the area.
A letter from the Methven Club concerning whip use and associated fines, along with the lack of skills displayed by some Clerks of the Course, was tabled and discussed. Rob Lawson advised that at a recent meeting with the RIU, it had been decided that the focus should be on the education of drivers, hence the new requirement for them to attend hearings, so that they could be shown a video of what was required. It was becoming evident that, should standards not improve, it was inevitable that whips would be banned, sooner rather than later. As advised earlier, the issue of employing and training of Clerks was still on-going.
Under General Business, Ken Barron voiced concern at the large number of races that were starting late, with Canterbury having the worst record. In Australia, the current situation was that harness racing was using 40% of television time, but providing only 14% of turnover, and this was under serious scrutiny. It was possible that penalty clauses for late starts for no apparent reason could be introduced. Standing starts were covered off, with all present agreeing that regardless of whether the method was standing still or walking up, the ultimate aim should be to get all horses away together.
A request had been received from the TAB to bring forward the driver notification times at least 24 hours, however the meeting felt that this was unreasonable and unnecessary, due to betting opening only the night before most meetings.
Mark Jones had forwarded a number of points he asked to be raised at the meeting. Matters that had not been covered already, were the removal of the 12 month rule for trial drivers (supported), junior concessions should be applied nationwide (in progress), percentage payments to trainers for every starter (not supported as no revenue source, and no appetite for reducing driver fees), standard percentage stake pay-outs nationwide and paying to 5th place (in progress), and points in lieu of stakes for Jewels qualification (not supported as it was felt that few horses that should be there, miss out under the current system).
A proposal from Gordon Lee to have emergencies excluded from the barrier draw and take the place of scratchings was not supported, the meeting considering that it was not a big enough issue to warrant a change.
K.Barron outlined an offer from Paul Chamberlain (Wellbeing Helpline) to counsel and support any Industry participants who are in need. Rob Lawson spoke of the Salvation Army representative who was also available in a similar way. He hoped that such assistance would be part of a new regime, as opposed to simply issuing fines.