FORMER minister for gaming and racing Richard Face has warned members against falling victim to ‘‘Newcastle paranoia’’ when they cast their vote in a ballot which could decide the fate of the Newcastle Jockey club tonight.
More than 75 per cent of attending members must agree to change the NJC board structure and activate $11.2million in funding from Racing NSW.
The governing body will bankroll crucial repairs to the deteriorating Broadmeadow surface and build a second grass track if NJC members reduce their 10-person board to seven, with three appointed by Racing NSW.
Some members and director Gary Dowling have bristled at the ultimatum, believing Racing NSW was putting its foot in the door at the club.
However Face, an NJC member and the longest-serving NSW minister for gaming and racing, said members needed to take the golden opportunity at the 6pm annual general meeting.
‘‘It’s a pretty fair situation,’’ said Face, who retired from parliament in 2003 after 30 years as member for Charlestown and eight as racing minister.
‘‘They have really still got control, the people are going to be Newcastle born and bred and there will be a degree of expertise coming in that will only do them good.
‘‘I’ve lived in Newcastle all my life, and I’m going to turn 70 in the next couple of days. I was born and bred here, and if I thought it was going to do any harm to Newcastle, the Hunter or the NJC, I wouldn’t be backing it.’’
He was ‘‘a great advocate of the corporate governance model’’ and believed it could benefit the NJC.
‘‘The board needs to be more forward planning, and with all due respect to the current board, they haven’t got that,’’ he said.
He believed the concerns of some members that Newcastle would lose control of its club to Sydney interests were clouding the big picture.
‘‘I think a few of these people who are opposing it have got a dose of what I call Newcastle paranoia when it comes to Sydney,’’ he said.
He also dismissed Dowling’s criticism that the NJC should have worked harder to negotiate a better deal.
‘‘What more could they have got?’’ he said.
‘‘They are getting the lion’s share of the money and that will put us in position to be the most powerful NSW club outside the Sydney metropolitan area.’’
Yesterday Alan Walker joined the 10-person board in place of Allen Hardes, who did not stand for re-election.
Chairman Geoff Barnett, Michael Hadaway, David Williams, Robert Dan, Bill Moncrieff, John Waghorn, Phillip Priestly, Anthony Hall and Dowling were returned.
If the resolutions to change the board are carried, a new election for four member-elected directors will start at the AGM.
NJC chief executive Cameron Williams welcomed Face’s support and called on members to attend and vote tonight.