Dargaville Racing Club president Tim Antonio is not happy with the implications of a bill before parliament, which could see club assets subsumed

Racecourse boss: ‘It’s institutionalised theft’

by Andy Bryenton

Dargaville Racing Club president Tim Antonio is calling a proposed new law ‘institutionalised theft’, expressing his committee’s displeasure at a bill before parliament, which would appear to give the national racing industry body the power to seize the assets of closed-down clubs.

Tim Antonio says he is ‘not happy’ with the contents of the Racing Industry bill, introduced into parliament on December 5 by the Minister for Racing, Winston Peters, even though the bill’s intent has been suspected for some time.

Mr Antonio pointed out that when Dargaville Racing Club, along with nine other largely rural racing clubs, was informed that they would no longer be able to stage race meetings at their premises — it was a considerable blow, though not fully unexpected.

The industry had also been sending out signals that they expected to seize control of the assets of the closed down clubs to help the greater industry.

With Dargaville’s track in this category, club and community members fear that the impact of the recently proposed Racing Industry bill may see club assets wrested from local control, despite both land and buildings being donated and maintained locally for nearly 100 years.

“The industry called this utilising racing industry property to support industry revitalisation,” says Mr Antonio. “That’s a preposterous statement.

I can’t speak for other clubs, though I suspect it is the same for the majority of them — but the assets of the Dargaville Racing Club belong to the community of Dargaville and surrounds. Not the industry.”

The club holds the land and buildings in trust for the benefit of the community. Mr Antonio says that if the proposed bill passes, it will open the door for these assets to be seized with no recourse to the club’s constitution.

“As president of the club, I have countless contacts with members of this community. None of them can understand where the racing industry gets the logic for their claim that our assets belong to them.”

The bill, available in its entirety online, proposes restrictions on property transactions by clubs without industry permission. It states that any agreements between the racing industry and clubs will override club constitutions. Moreover, where there is no agreement — it gives the industry the statutory power to resolve the situation as it sees fit.

“Just think about the ramifications of this precedent-setting legislation, for goodness sake,” said Mr Antonio. “Even the Public Works Act offers compensation for any land it takes. No such refinements here.”

To make a submission to parliament about this bill, please visit parliament.nz/en/pb/sc/make-a-submission. Scroll down to the Racing Industry bill and make your opinion heard. Submissions are due by February 11.