Christmas at the Races all set

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    Horses race during a previous Christmas at the Races at Ascot Park in Invercargill. Despite uncertainty around alert level restrictions, the Southland Racing Club has decided to go ahead with this year's event. Photo: File

    ORGANISERS of the Christmas at the Races in Invercargill are looking to introduce vaccine passports for this year’s event.

    Major events for Southland like the Burt Munro Challenge and Southern Field Days have been cancelled this week due to the uncertainty with Covid-19 alert levels and its crowd restrictions.

    However, Southland Racing Club president Sean Bellew confirmed to the Southland Express this week the club had decided to go ahead with the traditional event held at Ascot Park Raceway on December 11.

    “At the moment so many events have been cancelled for next year but we said no blow it, we will run our event.

    “If people need to be vaccinated to attend, that’s what it will be.”

    The club was awaiting an official announcement from the Government about its vaccine certificate system which could be operational by the end of the month, he said.

    Southland Racing Club president Sean Bellew: ”It is a calculated risk we are taking, but it is one that we need to take. I’m going to fight for this event and fight for the people who want to attend the event.”

    However, he believed the club would need to implement the passport in order to hold the event, along with other health and safety measures.

    Staff at the event would also be “Covid-19 friendly”, he said.

    “It is not discrimination. It is just practicality and common sense.

    “I’m empathetic towards [people who do not want to be vaccinated] but I’m a pragmatic man and my pragmatic nature tells me people will need to be double-vaccinated,” Mr Bellew said.

    “That is the way the future looks if you want to go to events.”

    Six thousand tickets were on sale online and people would have to provide information for contact tracing purposes.

    Mr Bellew said the racing action would go ahead anyway, but he was advocating for the public to be able to attend the traditional community event. Ticket purchases would be refunded if the public was not allowed to attend.

    “It is a calculated risk we are taking, but it is one that we need to take. I’m going to fight for this event and fight for the people who want to attend the event.

    “New Zealand as a whole has had a dreadful year and I want to give them something to celebrate.”

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