|What is the real objective behind the "Cluster" proposal
The more feedback we get from the clubs with regard to their meetings with Harness Racing New Zealand, over the new "cluster" proposal for clubs, the more concerned we have become about the process and what it actually means for the clubs.
We have had extensive communication from clubs and individuals involved in the process and the overall feeling from that feedback is not positive.
The wider harness racing community were told at conference time that a lot of clubs were going to fall over in the near future if something wasn't done quickly to improve the bottom line.
Clubs were herded into cluster groupings based upon which part of New Zealand they were in.
Now the Mid - South Canterbury grouping of five clubs doesn't fit into the rational given at conference time for these groupings.
All five clubs are financially very sound with all of them having a bank account balance well into six figures.
When they had their meeting with Harness Racing New Zealand, they soon realized that the only way that they could achieve savings of the magnitude being talked about at the meeting was if they all amalgamated and moved to Ashburton Raceway.
Now none of these clubs are in financial distress yet they are being encouraged to amalgamate to a site where four don't want to go and won't go.
So it is time for Harness Racing New Zealand to come clean and be honest about what the intent of this "cluster" proposal is.
In our view it is pure and simply centralization and is being promoted by Harness Racing New Zealand regardless of the financial health of the clubs involved.
Centralisation is a short term fix in our view.
Harness Racing New Zealand has had these meetings all over the country recently and the message is basically the same.
They won't force clubs to amalgamate but leave them in no doubt that it is in their best interest to do exactly that.
It has been pointed out that there will be no financial ramifications if clubs refuse to amalgamate but plenty of hints that things may change.
One relayed to us was it was suggested by Harness Racing New Zealand that maybe clubs that don't race on their own venue may have a point or two taken off their commission rate in the future.
So what is Harness Racing New Zealand trying to achieve?
Two things in our view.
1) To dramatically reduce the number of racecourses holding TAB meetings throughout New Zealand.
2) To free up the rather large amounts of cash that some clubs hold in their accounts.
There will be savings made if clubs amalgamate and move to one site we but we think that the positive effect will be very short lived and the negative effects will be long term.
There is an awful lot of money sitting in some of those smaller clubs bank accounts which could give the industry a one off boost if they were pooled together and in our view that is what HRNZ is trying to achieve.
We are convinced that what Harness Racing New Zealand is proposing is very damaging to the fabric of harness racing in New Zealand and if implemented will lead to a dramatic reduction in harness racing outside of the main centres.
Are we to become like the Greyhounds with their seven courses nationwide.?
From the feedback we are receiving there is a lot of opposition to the Harness Racing New Zealand proposals and we can only hope that the clubs hang tough in the weeks and months ahead.