Western Bay of Plenty horse riders are banding together to fight a proposed ban on horses on the beach at Tuapiro Point, near Katikati.
The council says riders are going outside permitted areas, leaving waste behind and riding over kaimoana beds, causing significant damage to what is considered an important source of food for the nearby marae.
The review follows a report from council’s Maori relationships and engagement officer and a presentation to the council by local hapu Ngati Te Wai.
The equestrian community has banded together to form a Facebook group called Recreational Horse Riders BOP to make a submission to the council about the bylaw review. More than 500 people have joined so far.
Spokesperson Lisa Coulson says Tuapiro Point is a popular place for horse riders to enjoy the coastal environment safely with their horses, and riders are extremely concerned that access for horses may no longer be permitted.
“If it is found that horses are causing the reported damage, we would be the first to stop riding there. We’ve been told we’re riding over kaimoana beds but I’ve been riding there for six years and never seen anyone collecting shellfish there.”
Lisa says there has also been confusion about the areas where horses are allowed to be ridden.
“We thought we were riding in a permitted area. The signage is a little confusing.”
She says the local equestrian community is disappointed the council hasn’t raised the issues with them before.
“One of the rules is that you have to pick up your horse’s poo, which some people haven’t been following. If it comes down to losing the beach I’m sure people will, but it’s not fair that [council] has decided we’re gone because of it without coming to talk to us.”
The proposed development of an 80-hectare forestry block in Lund Road for horse riding will not be the same as having Tuapiro Point available, says Lisa.
“For most of the riders who use Tuapiro the forest is not suitable. Tuapiro is flat and safe and the one place where families can go, park up the horse float and enjoy a nice afternoon.”
Lisa says most locals are welcoming of the horses on the beach. “I get stopped all the way along by little kids and mums and dads wanting to pat my pony or talk to me. A lot of people like having us there.”
Sarah Elliot and her nine-year-old daughter Riley, who suffers from anxiety, are regular riders at Tuapiro Point.
“Riley finds all sorts of things more challenging than an average 9-year-old would. Going to school is a daily challenge, attending birthday parties, going to pretty much any event without mum being there to support her.
“She has developed issues with hills and is too scared to ride on any hilly areas now. Tuapiro has been a wonderful place to ride - she feels safe and can challenge herself to trot her pony while I ride too. It makes my heart so happy to ride with her.”
Submissions on the proposed bylaw review can be made online at haveyoursay.westernbay.govt.nz until Monday, July 9.