John Messara intends wasting no time in acting on the mandate to head a wide-sweeping review of the New Zealand racing industry announced last Thursday by New Zealand Racing Minister Winston Peters.
Speaking today to www.theinformant.co.nz from his Sydney office, the former chairman of Racing Australia and Racing NSW said that he expected to commence his assignment next week and aims to have it completed before the end of the current racing season.
After being taken to task for a suggested lack of tangible progress on his pre-election promises to the racing industry, Mr Peters made a quantum leap in that direction yesterday with his announcement that Messara will review the New Zealand racing industry’s governance structures, and provide recommendations on future directions for the industry.
“It is vital an assessment is conducted on whether the industry is meeting its full financial potential, and whether its governance arrangements are top heavy,” said Mr Peters.
“His review will also assist the government in determining if the current Racing Act 2003 and the proposed Racing Amendment Bill are fit for purpose.”
Messara, well-known for the determined and well-thought negotiation skills that have been instrumental in Sydney racing becoming the envy of Australia and even the world, understands the gravity of his latest challenge but is determined to give it his best shot.
“It’s a challenge but I realise that the New Zealand racing industry has been under some stress,” he said. “I’ve had many years’ involvement in New Zealand and when I was approached by Mr Peters I agreed to do it.
“I’m excited by it and starting next week I’ll be setting out on a high level exercise aimed at arriving at some recommendations to report back to the Minister with.
“We’ll see how it goes, but I’m expecting it will be completed in three months.”
One has only to talk to stakeholders in the racing industry across the Tasman to get some understanding of the esteem in which Messara is held. As the first lady of Australian racing, Gai Waterhouse, commented between training duties at Randwick this morning, his understanding of the racing industry is complete.
“New Zealand is very lucky to get a person such as John Messara to look at how your industry is run and how it can be done better,” Waterhouse told www.theinformant.co.nz. “He has such a broad understanding of racing, his knowledge and the way he goes about making change is immense.”
Likewise the trainer with the largest team in work at Randwick, Peter Snowden. “Racing in Sydney wouldn’t be what it now is without the input of John Messara and (Racing NSW CEO) Peter V’landys,” he commented. “Look at the stakes we’re racing for here tomorrow, and other huge initiatives like The Everest.
“Not only does he know what’s required, but he makes it happen.”
On the home front, one significant stakeholder to welcome yesterday’s announcement is Garry Chittick, well recognised for his role in building Waikato Stud to become the country’s major breeding operation as well as being a former chair of the Racing Industry Board.
“I’ve been saying for so long that we need an independent approach, either one person or a group of people,” Chittick said. “We’re very lucky to get John, for him to be prepared to spend the time on us and our industry.
“He’s obviously independent, he’s a no-nonsense sort of bloke, and he’s got clout.”
Amongst his observations following yesterday’s announcement, Messara acknowledged the part played by The Informant over recent months, in particular journalist Brian de Lore’s “blank sheet” article that followed an interview with him at the National Yearling Sales in late January.
“It would be fair to say that article by Brian got the ball rolling,” he commented. “Now to have got to this stage with the Minister’s announcement, it says a lot for that level of journalism and the platform provided by your publication.”