SHARE
Not happy . . . Gore Harness Racing Club vice-president Chris Wilson is "gutted and disappointed" with Harness Racing New Zealand's decision to move Gore and Wyndham meetings to Invercargill from this season onwards. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Eastern Southland harness racing clubs are set to appeal the proposal their meetings should be moved to Invercargill from this season onwards.

Harness Racing New Zealand (HRNZ) plans to reduce the number of venues in New Zealand from 31 to 16 and has suggested the Gore Harness Racing Club and Wyndham Harness Racing Club move.

All harness racing in Southland would take place in Invercargill and Winton.

Wyndham president Russell Ferguson said a submission was under way and was due on June 14.

“The feeling in the community is quite strong and very positive about keeping the facilities open,” Ferguson said.

Gore Harness Racing Club president Ross Cleland said the Gore Racing Club, which the harness racing club rented the Gore Racecourse from, and major sponsor the Mataura Licensing Trust supported the appeal.

A consultation period was not offered and he was notified of the changes by HRNZ chief executive officer Peter Jensen, who had since resigned.

He felt it was a “knee-jerk” reaction and was frustrated with the lack of communication.

“They say we’ve got a chance of reversing it but sometimes these decisions have been made already,” Cleland said.

He had asked HRNZ for the “protocols” used to determine whether courses were left open or closed but “they couldn’t give me anything”.

“I’ve asked for financials as to what financial benefits they will have by us moving to Invercargill

“We’ve done a quick add-up of what it’s going to cost us and it’s in the vicinity of $40,000 with loss of sponsorship.

“It just seems strange that they can’t give us any facts or figures.”

Gore Harness Racing Club vice-president Chris Wilson said he was devastated by the decision.

“I’m gutted and disappointed in the management of the racing board, really. We feel like we’ve been let down by them seem fair,” Wilson said.

Cleland said Gore hosted about six meets a year and had the top number of starters in Southland.

“We’re top with 11.4, so trainers like to come here .. We’re very central.

“Between us and Wyndham we are both under the opinion there has to be a harness racing track in Eastern Southland.

“The Mataura Valley is famous for breeding champions .. You’ve got Young Quinn, Cardigan Bay bred just down the road here, Luna Chance, a New Zealand Cup winner.”

It would mean the Gore Christmas Races held on December 27 would move to Invercargill, he said.

“That’s one of the biggest [meets] few thousand.

“Quite honestly, people from Gore aren’t going to go down to Invercargill on the 27th [of December].

“We can’t see how the locals will support it.”

There were 43 trainers in Eastern Southland and the move would hinder them, he said.

“We run workouts every second week here.”

About 10 members of the Gore committee signalled they would be forced to resign if the move happened.

“Pretty doubtful if the decision’s made for us that we have to go to Invercargill .. We’d have to seriously look at whether it’s financially viable how long we could keep going for.

“We’re a very financial club we’re running a profit this year.

“We put money into events and put money back into our races.”