New Zealand authorities have welcomed the findings of a report by prominent Australian John Messara into the country's racing industry.
The proprietor of Arrowfield Stud, Messara is the former chairman of Racing Australia and Racing NSW and his report was released by Racing Minister Winston Peters at a public meeting on Thursday.
Among Messara's recommendations, the number of thoroughbred racing venues would be reduced from 48 to 28 and much of the NZ TAB's commercial operations would be outsourced.
"It's time for change. We believe this report will create a blueprint for a thriving thoroughbred industry," New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing chairman, Dr Alan Jackson, said.
"While our board has yet to consider the report in detail, the major recommendations are in line with NZTR's views and it is reassuring to have those policies verified by an independent and expert voice.
"We are confident that racing has a bright future in New Zealand but real change and brave leadership will be required if we are to achieve the report's target of doubling prize money.
"We are at the cross-roads in terms of sustainability and we need to move quickly. It's a heavily regulated industry and it is vital that any recommended changes to the Racing Act are put in place as soon as practicable, to allow each code to achieve their potential.
"The current wagering business model is under severe competitive pressure, and we need additional income streams and reduced costs if thoroughbred racing's share is to grow."
Jackson said NZTR endorsed the recommendation the number of venues be reduced.
"Infrastructure spending needs to be lifted. Many of our strategic tracks require significant investment but if we attempt to retain the current number of venues, there is a risk that the infrastructure spending will be spread too thinly," he said.
"Our sport has had a significant economic and social impact on New Zealand. It sustains more than 14,000 full-time equivalent jobs, has over 55,000 participants and generates more than $1.6 billion in value-added contribution to the New Zealand economy.
"The thoroughbred code, alone, has 16,000 owners, 3700 breeders and 1000 trainers and generates more than 9000 FTE jobs, plus volunteers."
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