No new trotting venue planned for Dunedin

no-new-trotting-venue-planned-for-dunedin

By Grant Miller of Otago Daily Times

Dunedin is out of the running for any new facility designed for harness racing, the Forbury Park Trotting Club has been told.

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Forbury Park Trotting Club is holding racing at both Wingatui and Wyndham racecourses this year. Photo: Forbury Park Trotting Club

Efforts to secure a long-term home at an upgraded Wingatui venue with the Otago Racing Club also seem destined to come up short.

“There will be no new harness racing track in Dunedin to replace the Forbury track,” Forbury Park Trotting Club chairman Craig Paddon said.

The club has been negotiating with Harness Racing New Zealand since Forbury Park became surplus to the industry’s requirements in August last year.

Paddon said the negotiations were about both the planned sale of the 12ha park at St Kilda and what would happen to sale proceeds.

A result could be achieved this summer.

The national body would not sanction spending on a new track in the Dunedin area, Paddon said.

However, the club had continued to advocate for proceeds from the planned sale of Forbury Park to be invested in Otago or Southland.

Two Forbury Park Trotting Club meetings are scheduled to be run on the grass at Wingatui this season, but hopes of a large capital injection into a combined facility there have faded.

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing chief executive Bernard Saundry said the body had not been drawn into discussions connected to the Forbury Park Trotting Club and it was focused on other issues.

Otago Racing Club chairman Murray Acklin said the club at Wingatui remained open to an agreement that could benefit both clubs.

However, the racing club did not want to give up land at Wingatui or an ownership stake at the venue.

When it was operating, Forbury Park was marketed as having the fastest sand-based surface in New Zealand.

Lack of such a track is expected to be an impediment for attracting quality fields to race meets in the years ahead.

It is understood lack of horses and trainers in the Dunedin area is a significant barrier to investment in facilities. Efforts to contact Harness Racing NZ yesterday to confirm this were not successful.

Taieri MP Ingrid Leary said the prospect of a new harness racing venue in the Dunedin area had always seemed a long shot, but a joint venture at Wingatui had appeared to be an opportunity worthy of consideration.

She remained optimistic the Forbury Park site would benefit the city once its future had been confirmed.

A housing development was one idea on the table.

There are also high hopes the site will be useful for helping the low-lying South Dunedin suburb adapt to climate change.

Leary said people had backed trotting in Dunedin over many decades and they would want their investment to be respected and for future community benefit to be kept in mind.

An auction of Forbury Park chattels at the end of last year grossed about $120,000 for the club.

Carrfields auctioneer Brent Taylor said a tractor sold for $26,000, a track groomer for $22,000, a utility vehicle with a mobile starting gate for $18,000 and another ute for $14,000.

Tables and chairs were among the items still needing a home.

– This story was first published on the Otago Daily Times website.

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