By NZ Racing Desk
New Zealand: Two all-weather tracks are set to be constructed in New Zealand as part of a multi-million-dollar government emergency funding package for the racing industry.
Minister for racing Winston Peters on Tuesday announced a NZ$72.5 million (£36m) COVID-19 financial package to be announced in Thursday’s Budget, featuring up to NZ$20m funding from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) for synthetic tracks to be installed at Riccarton in Christchurch and Awapuni in Palmerston North. The construction of a track in Cambridge is already underway after receiving NZ$6.5m in PGF funding.
News of the synthetics go-ahead for Riccarton, home of the New Zealand Guineas, was welcomed by veteran trainer Michael Pitman.
“I’ve been very constant in my wish for a synthetic track for 10 years,” said Pitman, the South Island’s leading trainer who now operates in partnership with his son Matthew.
“The synthetic tracks in Victoria get supported by all the best trainers,” he went on.
“I’ve been to Singapore, Hong Kong and England where they race on a lot of synthetic tracks. It is not just the racing but the training of horses in winter getting them ready for spring racing, I think it is a big plus.”
The majority of the government’s ‘rescue package’ is a NZ$50m grant to the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA), more than 50% of which goes to outstanding supplier bills. A total of NZ$24m will ensure racing can resume after the coronavirus suspension.
“We can’t gild the lily,” said Peters as he announced his package. “The racing industry has been hit by the perfect storm of COVID-19 while in a weak financial state and in the midst of a reform programme.
“As a result, there is a genuine risk of insolvency and the industry losing the future gains of its reforms.”
Peters added: “The racing industry is seriously underestimated for its economic contribution. For this reason the government will also consider recapitalising the industry to help promote a quicker recovery and achieve a greater economic outcome.
“The government has a respond, recover, and rebuild strategy for COVID-19. This announcement is the first step towards a long-term restoration of racing.”
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