This will be my final contribution to Harnesslink as Minister for Racing. I am leaving Parliament to take up the posting of High Commissioner for New Zealand in the Cook Islands. Harness racing and racing in general is an exciting and complex industry and I know all of you who make your living out of it, or just have an incredible passion for it, are committed to its longevity.
The economic viability of racing has been the main topic of discussion during my time with this portfolio. I would like to share some thoughts with you on that, drawing on the experiences I have with Christchurch and its earthquakes.
In addition to being Minister for Racing, I am also Minister of Civil Defence and so have been actively involved in the response to both the 4 September 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Canterbury and the devastating 6.3 magnitude aftershock on 22 February.
The 22 February earthquake that hit Christchurch City has been one of the most damaging and deadly natural disasters in New Zealand's history. I hope it is a once in a lifetime event.
Christchurch City's central business district was particularly hard hit and much of the essential services infrastructure throughout the city sustained damage.
Civil Defence has learned a lot from these earthquakes, including how important local communities are in supporting the response effort. At the end of the day, it is the generosity of people that makes all the difference.
Tens of thousands of Cantabrians got stuck in during the response clearing silt, working in welfare centres, distributing supplies, and checking on neighbours. It has been heartening to see.
The response in Christchurch was all the more remarkable when you consider that many of these people lost loved ones and had their homes damaged or even destroyed.
I've highlighted this community pulling together for a reason.
I think the racing industry can learn from this. I have said it before and this is probably the final time I will say it to you; people in your industry need to work together for the overall good of racing.
There are some really smart and business-savvy younger people in your industry and I think you need to listen to their ideas and let them take strong leadership roles. I would like to see people like Shane Gloury, chief executive at The Met, given more responsibility for future planning. He has certainly risen to the many challenges the earthquake presented for his club.
Back your leaders.
It doesn't matter who is in charge if the troops are working against them.
Again I refer back to Christchurch where everyone mucked in for the greater good, regardless of their personal circumstances. They might not have liked the politicians, the Mayor, or Councillors, or Civil Defence National Controller, but they knew what the end goal was, so they supported the leadership to get there.
Racing could learn from the way Christchurch City is changing and rapidly adapting to really adverse circumstances. Many businesses have had to relocate and rethink their operations to stay in business. Some have had to virtually start again. Big decisions are being made quickly on a daily basis.
My final piece of advice would be to look forward, not backward.
by The Hon. John CARTER (New Zealand's racing Minister)