Day At The Track

Law change needed over Alan Jackson case

02:31 AM 03 May 2013 NZST
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The Rt Hon. Winston Peters
The Rt Hon. Winston Peters

Sometimes, as Mr Bumble famously said, "the law is an ass" and that phrase could be applied to the case of Dr Alan Jackson’s removal as Chairman of the New Zealand Racing Industry Board – and still not replaced. What is happening?

The board controls all three codes, galloping, harness and greyhounds, as well as controlling the TAB betting on racing and sports.

Dr Jackson was appointed by Racing Minister Nathan Guy in July last year but the Greyhound Racing Association asked the High Court to rule on whether Dr Jackson could be seen as an independent.

The court ruled in February that the appointment could be compromised. It said the Minister overlooked Dr Jackson's connections to the thoroughbred arm of racing.

This ruling, and the greyhound industry itself, as racing scribe Mike Dillon pointed out, have not suggested Dr Jackson even slightly acted outside his mandate, only that he "could".

The case brings forward some serious issues and we would have expected the Minister to prepare some urgent legislation to patch up what is obviously a hole in the law. We are sure that all parties in Parliament would have cooperated.

The most serious issue is that someone with considerable business acumen and a deep interest in racing is rejected because he could allegedly favour thoroughbreds above harness racing and greyhounds.

This situation is nonsensical because Dr Jackson has a deep knowledge of the racing industry and knows what he is talking about. In fact, his ideas played a large part in formulating racing policy during the period 2005-2008 when I was Minister for Racing.

He is well known in racing industry circles, having previously served as an independent member of the NZRB board as well as more recently representing thoroughbred interests on the NZRB.

New Zealand is a small country. It is hard to find people of expertise and knowledge to help guide the racing industry and who better than Dr Jackson? In our view the Greyhound Racing Association's issue with Dr Jackson being appointed could have been resolved with better communication instead of a court case.

When the court ruling was announced, the Minister could have appealed against it or tidied up the "independent" issue through legislation.

All three branches of the racing industry, thoroughbred, harness and greyhound need expertise on the Racing Industry Board. Dr Jackson is in the unique position of having a deep knowledge of racing administration as well as an inside knowledge of the industry itself.

The appointment of an "independent" chairman is a pipe dream. In our view the last person the three codes need is someone who has never been involved in the racing industry.

Dr Jackson has vision and commitment. These qualities are desperately needed to keep the racing industry afloat and thriving. It is not just about catering for the "Sport of Kings", the future of thousands of jobs and major export earnings are at stake.

by Wintons PETERS

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