Do I remember correctly Winston Peters criticising expensive dinners as political party fundraisers? That was then, this is now:
. . . In May, we reported that NZ First’s donors and supporters in the thoroughbred and bloodstock industry expected him to deliver their wish-list: an all-weather track, tax breaks for breeding, restructuring the NZ Racing Board and potentially outsourcing some TAB services to an Australian provider.
And so we come to Wednesday night, where the Deputy Prime Minister and NZ First leader gathered together three of his senior MPs and and about 80 business leaders to start with pan-tossed prawn tails and cognac liver pate and finish with his plans in government.
At $600 a head, these guests were not paying for their dinner. With respect to the head chef at the Tauranga Club, no Bay of Plenty restaurant charges that for dinner. They were paying for access to Peters and offering their financial support to his party to deliver on their wishlist.
Many were from the world of breeding and racing. . .
The following evening at Claudelands Events Centre in Hamilton, Peters unveiled the proposed restructuring: slashing the numbers of small courses from 48 to 28, outsourcing the TAB to an Australian betting agency, replacing the Racing Board with administrative bodies controlled by the thoroughbreds industry, and the locations of the three synthetic race tracks at Riccarton, Awapuni and Cambridge.
Some of this, like cutting back the number of race courses, is sad but sensible policy.
But some initiatives – the all-weather race courses – have bypassed proper Budget approval.
And Treasury and Inland Revenue papers published this week conclude that tax breaks for “good-looking horses” will do New Zealand no good whatsoever. “Neither tax concessions nor subsidies seem justified,” they warn.
The only people who benefit from Peters’ tax breaks, estimated by Inland Revenue to cost NZ up to $40 million in lost revenue, are those who trade in horseflesh. . .
A friend who owns a share in a race horse got a letter before last year’s election asking him to vote for New Zealand First and contribute to racing’s contribution to the party’s campaign.
He did neither.
Some who did will be pleased with what they’re getting in return. Others who supported the party in one way or another won’t be.
For years Winston Peters has spoken out against overseas ownership and the centralisation of businesses to the detriment of smaller centres.
How will those who agreed with and voted for him feel about the probability the TAB will be sold to Australia and the closure of small town race tracks? Is this what they voted for?
Closing small schools has caused big political fallout. Shutting the gates on local race tracks won’t happen without a fight and locals might hold some cards that racing bigwigs haven’t counted.
Some race tracks are owned locally by trusts. The trustees will have to agree to any sales and even if the tracks are sold the proceeds will have to stay in the community, they won’t be able to go to racing HQ.