Monday, 18 February 2008

Newsletter 106 and Special General Meeting

By now, most members should have received the latest Newsletter 106 by email. It's also available for viewing or download on the website. In this newsletter, and on several pages of our site, you will find a call to attend a Special General Meeting of the club.

In the newsletter on page 5 under the banner "The Future of WATRC: Part of Endurance NZ or Going it Alone???" are reproduced a number of emails documenting the to and fro debate that has been on-going between our Committee and Endurance New Zealand.

It's clear from the emails that WATRC is in dispute with EnNZ over the matter of outstanding levies on ride entries. EnNZ believes that WATRC has failed to pay levies that are due and that WATRC is obliged to pay under the terms of its affiliation to EnNZ.

WATRC has for some time deducted a ground fee from its entries, and this deduction has been excluded from the amount on which the EnNZ levy was calculated. WATRC has done this in good faith, believing they had a dispensation (if only in precedent) to do so. EnNZ has no record of such dispensation under the rules that could allow it, but points out that in any case they would not and do not normally grant such dispensation.

Consequently, WATRC is considered in arrears on its levies and has been asked to pay the outstanding amounts.

Although EnNZ has acknowledged the widespread disatisfaction with the basis of levy calculation, their position is that it would be unfair for WATRC to be exempted their arrears when other clubs have paid the correct levies. They maintain that despite disatisfaction with the present regime, the proper way to address the problem is through the EnNZ AGM, which was the member's forum that set the present unpopular levies, and at which WATRC was represented.

In my opinion, it's unfortunate that our newsletter frames this is issue in terms of whether or not to remain affiliated with EnNZ. In my opinion, this is a reaction to the situation, not a solution to the issues, and as such it has the unintended potential to mis-direct member's thinking.

The fact is that EnNZ considers themselves in financial dispute with WATRC. What this means is that regardless of whether or not WATRC remains affiliated, EnNZ are likely to seek to recover outstanding levies.

While it's easy to criticise EnNZ and NZEF (the over-arching body for equestrian sport in New Zealand) for taking levies and giving little in return, the fact is that there are benefits to being a part of a national sporting body, and while those benefits may seem a little intangible at times, be assured that WATRC does benefit.

EnNZ believes that our ride fees are too low, and that we could and should raise them. WATRC has suggested that raising the fees will reduce ride attendance. Regardless of the merits of either argument, if WATRC is to consume the services and resources of EnNZ, it ought morally to pay its fair share to support EnNZ. In particular, it is bound to meet the obligations it accepted when it affiliated to EnNZ.

While I think the whole question is premature, if members are going to make this an issue of whether to stay in EnNZ or go it alone, then they need to be better informed about what leavng would mean.

It would mean WATRC would become in effect a private riding club. It's events would have no standing with respect to national awards. Riders would have to go to other club events to qualify for national events. No resources from EnNZ would be available to the club. We would no longer benefit from buying power and economies of scale that a national body can secure. We would probably lose credibility with sponsors and supporters of equestrian sport. It would, in my opinion, probably spell the end of the club.

Likewise, if members prefer to remain affiliated to EnNZ they need to consider what is the value to them of WATRC, and what they're prepared to pay to be part of the national sport and to have a viable club that runs rides at such magnificent venues. If you look at the costs of other entertainments, do you think our ride fees fairly reflect their value to us?

Equestrian sport is not cheap. Shoeing a horse is not cheap. Running a vehicle powerful enough to tow a horse float is not cheap. We won't even talk about the costs of feed, grazing, veterinary care, worming, saddlery, covers, ... the list goes on. Just owning a horse is not cheap.

We pay a lot for our big pets. Do we value our rides enough to pay a little more for those too?

Here's something to think about.

WATRC has been paying the EnNZ levy (25% +GST) on half the ride fee. That is, it pays $2.81 for each $20 ride entry. It retains $17.19

EnNZ requires a levy on the full $20. That would make the levy $5.63 (rounded up) and WATRC would keep $14.37.

If WATRC raised it's ride entry to $25, the EnNZ levy would rise to $7.03, and WATRC would keep $17.97.

$5 more per ride entry is all it takes to meet our obligations to EnNZ and maintain our present level of club funding.

If the ride entry were raised to $30, the EnNZ levy would be $8.44 and the club would keep $21.56.

Now ask yourself - what can I get for $30 ? Here's some ideas:
2 movie tickets
A 2 course meal for one in Wellington (cheap and no drinks)
A 2 course meal for 2 at a country pub (maybe, and still no drinks)
One bottle of wine to go with the meal
4 glasses of wine to go with the meal (buy the bottle)
3 horse wormers (cheap ones heavily discounted)
1 shoe for your horse (fitted)
A month of halfway decent internet access (if you can get broadband in your area)
A Lotto Combo with PowerBall
15 minutes with a therapist

Hell, after getting home knackered and starving from a ride, we order in a pizza and garlic bread (from Hell) and that costs more than our current ride entry.

So it all boils down to this. Are our rides worth $5 more to help WATRC remain viable and meet it's obligations ? Or looked at another way, are our rides worth as little as a takeaway meal for 2 ?

There is of course a second question, and that is, do we perceive value from the levies on our ride entries paid to EnNZ, and the other levies paid to NZEF as club affiliation fees, and by registered riders and horses to NZEF for eligibility for national awards (this last bit raises a question for individuals - is it worth paying your NZEF registration if the club is not affiliated)?

But I emphasise that this is the second question, not the first, and it should only be asked once the first has been answered.

I remain painfully aware that club members don't have equal access to the club's publishing outlets. We have no forum where club members can debate these issues, other than at a meeting. I don't normally wade into a political debate on the club's website, and I feel I must apologise for doing so now.

Be assured that while I do have an opinion, my purpose is to support the club, its members, and its officers in reaching an informed and balanced assessment of the current issues we face, the potential consequences of our actions, and to find a beneficial resolution for all parties. If I can assist any member with makng their voice heard on this matter, I will certainly do so.

I will be at Thursday's meeting, and I urge all members who can to attend it also.

David Fitzgerald-Irons

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