Kleine Bay of Plenty stad overspoeld met ronddolende paardenjuli 19, 2020
A small Bay of Plenty town has become overrun with wandering horses who have taken up munching grass verges outside suburban homes.
Close to 100 horses are now believed to be roaming the coastal town of Ōpōtiki, causing safety concerns for both people and horses.
Ōpōtiki District Council planning and regulatory group manager Gerard McCormack said, while there had always been some wandering horses in town, there’d been a noticeable increase since Covid-19 lockdown finished.
“The number of complaints has increased fourfold since Covid restrictions eased,” he said.
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Council was now considering adding a permit or licencing arrangement to its reserve management plan, which was under review.
“They would have to register the horses and would have to be clearly identifiable, so [we’d need to] photograph all the horses. And, if they’re not in our system, effectively they don’t have permission to have them on council land.”
Resident Amber Rakuraku said addressing the horse issue was well overdue.
“It’s been a problem since before lockdown, but since the lockdown was lifted it just seems to have got far worse,” she said. “It went from a couple of stray horses every other week, to packs of stray horses every other day.”
A lot of the horses were located close to the river stopbank which is near the state highway.
Her uncle had a lucky escape after hitting a loose horse in the area only a couple of months ago. It left him quite shaken.
“It did some major damage to his vehicle which is a Hilux, which are pretty sturdy vehicles… We were just very grateful he wasn’t injured or worse.”
Rakuraku said it wasn’t just the council who needed to take action, horse owners also needed to take care of their animals.
“It is important to try to find a way to manage the situation rather than dragging animals off to pounds and putting the costs on to owners who can’t afford it.”
McCormack said some horses were grazing on both council and private land.
“Some have agreements with the council, and some don’t, so that all needs to be cleaned up.”
McCormack isn’t completely sure as to why there’s been an influx of horses but thought the price of renting paddocks out of town could be one reason.
“Perhaps they can’t afford the rent, I am not sure.”
McCormack said the was general concern because of the different types of horse owners.
“There are people who do take care of their horses, [but] there are people who cut fences and open gates to let horses out on purpose. And then there are people who don’t look after the horses. So there is a whole mixture of things going on here, it’s not just one cause.”
Ōpōtiki police rural response manager Senior Sergeant Richard Miller said in a statement, it’s still a town where horses are used often.
“Horses are kept at residential properties, tethered on road side berms and on empty sections and graze on council-owned river banks.”
There is a bylaw prohibiting them being ridden down the main street in town, but not in residential areas.
“Police receive periodic complaints about loose horses and cattle on the roads and highways, as do most rural towns.”