Concerns for the future of country racing are circulating faster than Phar Lap, since the Labor government dodged questions about funding during last week’s Estimates Hearings.
Shadow Minister for Sport and Racing, Jann Stuckey, has expressed concerns that the racing industry will suffer if the LNP’s $4 million in funding is not renewed under the current Labor government.
“Whilst Labor are committing to one year of funding they are giving us some strong indications that it will not continue after that,” she says.
In the past country race meetings in Queensland have almost halved under the Labor government, but Minister for Racing Bill Byrne has assured industry stakeholders that the future of racing is in good hands.
“As I stated in Estimates last week, I know how important country racing is to our regional communities. I have always enjoyed myself at these meetings and it is important that these events continue,” he says.
Cuts to the current $1 million per annum for country racing will mean that local communities will have to take measures to reduce the costs of racing and may have to bear the cost of meetings themselves.
The funding allocated to country racing is used to holding the race meeting, prize money and educational programs for jockeys.
For regional towns struggling with drought and poor weather, country races are a source of fun, entertainment and community morale.
“We recognise the magical benefit that these country race meets have to small towns and communities scattered throughout Queensland. In tough times it really is the magic you see on people’s faces when they come together from many miles around to celebrate at a country race day,” says Ms Stuckey.
A discussion paper on the sustainability of racing in Queensland has been made available for public comment, calling on industry experts and stakeholders to have their say about the future of the industry, which has been operating at a loss for the past five years.
Racing Queensland CEO Ian Hall says that with a loss of $12.4 million to the racing industry in the 2012-13 financial year, it is important that everyone pitches in to get the industry back on track.
“With the contributions of all these people and the wider industry… we have the opportunity to consider every group and their interests as we develop a plan to secure the industry’s sustainability,” he says.