Maori Racing History

Otaki Maori Racing Club enters new era

By our  local government correspondent, Jeremy Smith

A unique Kapiti Institution, the Otaki Maori Racing Club, is facing one of the biggest changes in its 131-year history. It’s about to become the site for a farmers’ market.

Changes in the racing industry mean that, since August this year, the club has stood alone, outside the formal racing group it previously belonged to.

The horses will still race; but for the non-racing public the changes mean the Otaki course, which dates from 1910, will become the site of the Kapiti Farmers market, running every fortnight from March to October.

KCDC grant to help the club

And the club has received $15,000 from the KCDC as part of its development plans.

Otaki Maori Racing Club committee in 1951

The racing club’s general manager, Ben Jamison, says the three existing farmers markets, at Waikanae, Paraparaumu and Te Horo still leave a gap in the Kapiti area, which can be filled at the Otaki track.

Jamison says their inspiration for the proposed market is based on a Hawkes Bay market, which runs to about 75 stall holders a week.

It attracts thousands of customers from around the North Island at  two separate venues, Saturdays at Napier and Sundays at Hastings.

Otaki is seen as an ideal location for a large farmers market pulling in customers from Kapiti, the wider Wellington area, Palmerston North and even further.

Mr Jamison says the timing will bring crowds into Kapiti during the “off-season” for most tourists, March to October.

The existing buildings at the racecourse mean the stalls  and customers will be protected against the weather . And the initial schedule, a fortnightly market , with 500 to 1,000 visitors, would become weekly market as numbers built to 1500 to two thousand.

The Racing Club says that,m as part of its survival plan, it also plans to develop  housing on the grounds, similar to housing at the Trentham Race track.

Part of NZ’s social history

The Otaki Maori Racing club is significant in New Zealand’s social history.  

Racing programme from 1889

It was one of a number of Maori racing clubs founded in the 1880’s mainly in the lower North Island.

Initially their patrons were largely Maori, reflecting the local population.

The Otaki club was formed by three iwi groups, Ngati Toarangtira, Atiawa Ki Whakarongotai and Ngati Raukawa.

The other clubs have gone. But the Otaki Maori Racing Club proudly remains as the world’s only Maori Racing club.