NJC chief welcomes change of mind from Hardes

NEWCASTLE Jockey Club chief executive officer Cameron Williams has welcomed a change of heart from influential director Allen Hardes and hopes it is a sign momentum is swinging towards members accepting a conditional $11.2million in track funding on Tuesday night.

Hardes had been an outspoken opponent of members accepting the deal in which NJC members make constitutional changes at the annual general meeting to  cut their 10-person board to seven, with three appointed by Racing NSW, to receive the trackwork funding.

But in a letter to the editor published on page 12 of the Newcastle Herald today, Hardes said he felt ‘‘we have no choice to accept the Racing NSW offer for Newcastle racing to survive and prosper for generations to come’’.

Hardes is not seeking re-election to the NJC board after 15 years of service, but remains a key figure among members.

Williams said the public statement from Hardes, who has been among the top vote-getters at NJC elections during his tenure, was ‘‘good news for the club’’.

‘‘I think members will look to the board for their direction on this, and having Allen throwing his support behind this now will certainly help our cause,’’ Williams said.

Hardes and Gary Dowling were the only directors against the deal.

A yes vote of 75per cent or more is needed from attending members for the changes to be approved. 

The $11.2million will  cover debts from recently completed track work, fund an upgrade of the course proper and pay for the construction of a second, inside track.

In his letter, Hardes said accepting the condition of three Racing NSW-appointed directors was a ‘‘bitter pill to swallow’’.

Williams hoped that any distaste members felt about the change would be replaced by joy over the redevelopments, which would save the deteriorating track.

The poor state of the surface was highlighted on Tuesday when jockeys deemed it unsafe after one hour of track work and training was moved to the 

synthetic Pro-Ride course.

‘‘I very much hope the momentum is swinging strongly towards the yes vote and the fact that Allen has come out publicly and said what he’s said is a signal that’s the way it’s going,’’ Williams said.

‘‘I hope that as the next couple of days go past and we get through the AGM, that acceptance will turn into excitement, because we are genuinely excited about this.

‘‘What we all need to remind ourselves is, what is the alternative? The alternative is not very bright. 

‘‘There might have been a few raised eyebrows over the conditions of the offer, but the fact remains, it is what it is and it’s too good to let pass.’’

He said no proxy or postal voting would be allowed.

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