The earthquake that struck Christchurch on February 22 dealt the city a devastating blow. In addition to the lives lost, many have also been disrupted in the wake of that earthquake, including those of the Canterbury harness racing community.
Due to earthquake damage to Addington Raceway, the 2011 Inter Dominion Pacing and Trotting Championships have been moved from Christchurch to Auckland.
In a further blow, the Interdoms have lost this year's major sponsor, the Christchurch Casino.
The decision by the Christchurch Casino is understandable. The Casino is still within the cordon and has yet to assess damage and plans to resume business.
The decision to move from Addington is a sensible and necessary one. Unless you have seen first-hand the damage from the 6.3 magnitude earthquake last month you cannot fathom the extent of the physical damage.
Christchurch has also had to face the loss of Rugby World Cup games due to earthquake damage to its key venue, the AMI Stadium.
Sports, including racing, have great capacity to bring communities together, so losing both of these international events is a real blow to the spirit of Cantabrians.
I like to think the rest of New Zealand is standing behind Canterbury as it looks ahead to recovery from both the 4 September 2010 and 22 February 2011 earthquakes.
I hope to see Aucklanders really get behind the Interdominion carnival to help the people of Canterbury so adversely affected by these natural disasters. I plan to be there on finals night and expect there will be some fund-raising initiatives so race-goers can contribute to the massive earthquake recovery work that lies ahead.
The Met is still the host club, racing at Alexandra Park as a tenant without any charges, which is a good solution under the circumstances.
There will also be a strong contingent of Canterbury trainers and drivers and I wish them success as it is important they can get on with earning a living, despite sometimes difficult circumstances at home.
It is good to see the event didn't have to be abandoned and that the racing industry has worked together on a winning solution. I am heartened by this as I believe working together for mutual good is the way forward for the whole racing industry.
by Hon John Carter (New Zealand's Minister for Racing)