Horses on beach bylaw saddles up

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After two years of discussion on bylaws, nearly all of Tauranga's beaches and harbour foreshore will be opened up to horses.

Tauranga City Council decided that the only banned areas will be Mauao, Mount Main Beach, Moturiki Island and Pilot Bay.

Horses are also banned from being ridden along beaches within 100 metres of marae, unless the horse is being walked.

Some Matapihi Maori lost their bid to stop horse trainer Stuart Manning using tidal flats on the northern side of the peninsula to exercise his horses.

Councillors were not convinced that shellfish beds on the narrow strip where horses had been cantered for 20 years were being damaged. It quoted a 2001 Environment Bay of Plenty report which stated that no evidence could be found that horses were damaging the environment.

The new bylaw will take effect on March 1 and is far less restrictive than the bylaw adopted by the council before last year's election.

The former council decided in July last year to restrict horses to Papamoa Beach from Harrison's Cut to the Kaituna River.

But in clumsy wording which ultimately undid the whole effort, it added that permission may be requested to ride horses on other parts of Tauranga's beaches and foreshore.

Legal advice was that using the word "may" introduced ambiguity into the sentence, so it was deemed unenforceable.

It meant the whole horses section of the beaches bylaw came back to the new council.

The council received 36 submissions of which half came from Matapihi Maori, who opposed, largely on environmental and food gathering grounds, to the continuation of horses being exercised on the flats. A lot of bad blood had built up over the years between some Matapihi Maori and horse trainers who exercise their horses on the peninsula's Waipu Bay.

Horse trainer David Miller said that it was not horses that were an environmental threat but leachate from a solid wood waste landfill consented by Environment Bay of Plenty in 1996. It allowed a 3.2ha area below Hungahungatoroa Marae to be infilled with bark and plywood waste from Fletcher Wood Panels at the rate of 10,000 cubic metres a year for four years, and to discharge leachate from the base of the landfill for 10 years.

The consent allowed 32,500cu m of leachate to be discharged per year from the landfill on marae-owned land fronting the harbour.

The council voted 7-4 to allow a more liberal horse riding regime on the grounds that there was no existing problem with horses, and that horse owners were responsible people.

In answer to safety concerns, the council stressed that horse owners would not want to ride their horses along busy sections of the beach because of the risk that horses could get spooked.

Mayor Stuart Crosby supported the compromise put up by Surf Life Saving BOP that horses be permitted on beaches at all times from April to September and from 7pm to 9am in the main swimming months from October to March.

Council can add other no-go areas for horses into the bylaw if problems emerged later on.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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