High salaries being paid to key management personnel and senior staff of the New Zealand Racing Board during testing economic times and an apparent inability to maximise profits are matters of much concern to Invercargill industry watchdog Laurie Sutherland.
A retired accountant and former prominent secretary of racing clubs, handicapper and successful owner, Mr Sutherland was ''gravely concerned'' that Racing Board salaries had risen by 121 percent over the last five years compared to New Zealand's average wage index that represented around 13 percent increase.
The board's salaries for senior staff in that time had jumped from $3.630 million to $8.040 million.
''If it was assumed that each Board employee was being paid at the minimum of their respective salary band, then the total cost each year would have amounted to $3.630 million in 2006, $5.9 million in 2008 and $8.040 million last year,'' he said.
On that basis, it is no wonder so many stake holders and licence holders are expressing outrage at a time when much of the industry is poised at precarious financial crossroads.
The highest salary band last year ($840,000 to $850,000) applied to the chief executive position, which was much higher than the Prime Minister was paid.
''I believe Racing Board Members should produce a full explanation of the reasons for their apparent profligacy,'' he said.
Mr Sutherland was specifically critical of the Board's 56 staff members who were being paid $100,000 or more last year as against 25 five years ago.
''That increase certainly represents one hell of a jump.''
The issue has also been seriously viewed by North Island trainers who have become outraged by the extent of salaries and the rapidly increasing number of employees being paid in excess of $100,000 annually. Several meetings of protest to air the issue have been held.
Mr Sutherland said the Racing Board is specifically required by the Racing Act to maximise its profits for the long term benefit of New Zealand racing.
''The massive salary increases suggest the Board is not making too much effort to maximise its profits.''
''I am also concerned that the results of the Board's financial activities could be much more clearly and quickly shown to racing stake holders than by the present system's figures being scattered over numerous pages in the New Zealand Racing Board's annual reports.''
In as far as he could see as a stake holder and financial contributor to New Zealand racing, there was no valid reason preventing the New Zealand Racing Board setting out its financial results in a more ''simple, logical, informative and understandable form.''
The leap in employment related expenses was massively disproportionate to the modest increase in turnovers, he pointed out.
''Total betting through our New Zealand outlets was $1,206.9 million for 2003, rising 31 percent to $1,582.7 million for 2010,'' he said.
''Seven years earlier in 2003 the combined RIB-TAB employment related expenses were $23.286 million and since then have jumped $14.911 million or 64 percent, small wonder the long suffering owners and punters are starting to desert.''