It is a delight to be providing what is New Zealand First's first regular column for Harnesslink, particularly as it relates to something of which I am so fond - horses. There is no secret that horses have played a significant role in the history of the Peters clan.
Both my father and grandfather trained farm-based horses - from draught horses through to Shetland ponies. So there is little doubt where my love of the animals came from.
I certainly agree with the view that there is a special relationship between men and horses which stretches back centuries. Hopefully Gareth Morgan doesn't consider our equine friends to have a detrimental impact on the environment or the glue factories could double production.
But on a serious note, it is hard to understate the importance of the racing industry to the New Zealand economy. It contributes more than $1.6 billion to the economy and supports about 17,000 fulltime equivalent jobs, and thousands more part time.
The Government has neglected many aspects of the economy and this is one of them.
During my time as Racing Minister stretching from 2005 to 2008 the industry began to boom, and those within it were looking at the future with confidence.
Sadly, those halcyon days are a dimming memory. They can return given good leadership but that is sadly lacking from the current Government.
A quick check on the Beehive website shows that the Minister of Racing has only issued six press statements about racing over the past 12 months.
It is also noted the Government does not contribute a column to this publication. Read into that what you will.
New Zealand First recognised in 2006, as part of the coalition Government, the export potential of the New Zealand breeding industry, and the need for improved international marketing. We achieved a much-improved taxation regime through a reduction in totalisator duty and an accelerated write-down regime for bloodstock.
The strongly supported decision to permit racehorses sold for export to remain in New Zealand for up to 24 months without attracting GST was a further fillip to the industry and to the economy.
In addition we implemented a policy of internationally competitive stakes for racing codes, and an industry safety plan. These achievements provided the industry with the momentum to bolster its economic contribution, creating more jobs, more exports, and more income for New Zealand. Yearling sales prices improved dramatically. Sadly much of the impetus to revive the racing industry has been lost under the present Government's neglect.
Rest assured that New Zealand First is committed to the industry and will take whatever opportunities it can to assist and grow the racing sector.
We have a number of plans for this to occur which will be discussed in future columns.
It should be plain common-sense to everyone interested in racing that to be effective the Ministry must have a plan, and a fair share of racing generated money if racing is to be internationally competitive and New Zealand owners rewarded.
by Rt Hon. Winston PETERS (Leader of the NEW ZEALAND FIRST party)