Manawatū traffic gives way to horses as equestrian community delivers petition

Cars have briefly given way to horses in the Manawatū town of Feilding as riders clipped and clopped through the CBD with a call to remember them.

Riders gather at the office of Rangitīkei MP Ian McKelvie.
Photo: RNZ / Jimmy Ellingham

The New Zealand Equestrian Advocacy Network on Friday delivered a petition, signed by about 6500 people, calling for officials to consult horse riders when designing and planning transport projects.

“This is about making sure that the New Zealand government recognise our needs as recreational riders in legislation,” said network co-chairman Arthur Yeo.

“Currently, no government planner or designer is required by law to consult the equestrian group.

“We are legitimate road users. We are losing places to ride. Bridleways are turning into cycleways and walkways. We notice that cyclists and walkers in New Zealand have government backing, support and funding, and we’ve got nothing.”

The petition was accepted by Rangitīkei MP Ian McKelvie, of National, at his electorate office and he’ll hand it to Parliament’s petition’s committee, which will decide the next move.

The network originally planned to ride to Parliament to present the petition, but Covid-19 but a halt to that.

Yeo, who lives in Ashhurst, near Palmerston North, said there were more than 100,000 horse riders in New Zealand, and many couldn’t ride safely on the roads.

At the same time, off-road places to ride were dwindling, hence the network’s call to make it obligatory for local and central government planners to consult horse riders.

“We also notice that on the roads the current cohort of drivers are less courteous and understanding of horses’ needs. They’ve got a big bubble and they really require understanding.

“Lots of drivers will go past horses really quickly, sounding their horns and yelling out the window.

“Lots of horses can cope, but some can’t, and if they can’t they’ll dive in front and everyone’s worse off.”

Jen Fowler and Willy Wanka's Golden Ticket often ride on the roads, but don't always feel safe.

Jen Fowler and Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket often ride on the roads, but don’t always feel safe.
Photo: RNZ / Jimmy Ellingham

Manawatū woman Jen Fowler said when she rode her horse, Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket, on the road, motorists would often pass at speed.

“Go as slow as possible,” she pleaded with motorists.

“Twenty kilometres [an hour] is great, but if you are doing 40 km/h we’re still going to wave. Doing 100 km/h usually gets a rather different signal.”

Many riders in Feilding on Friday were concerned the loss of places to ride could see future generations confined to going around farmers’ fields.

Juanita Preston and Jazzy get ready for the ride through Feilding.

Juanita Preston and Jazzy get ready for the ride through Feilding.
Photo: RNZ / Jimmy Ellingham

Shannon woman Juanita Preston, who was with her horse Jazzy, said she wanted to see more recognition for horse riding.

“A lot of our recreational places that we do ride our horses are getting shut off from us, like accesses to beaches and rivers and stuff like that.

“We’re just putting it out there that horses need places to go as well as humans do, like dog walkers.”

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency regional relationships director Linda Stewart said officials were aware of the petition.

“Engagement with existing users and assessments of the impacts of infrastructure projects on both existing users and the environment is a standard part of the consenting process for our projects,” she said.

“This process is open to all interested parties.”

Arthur Yeo leads the group through the town's central business district.

Arthur Yeo leads the group through the town’s central business district.
Photo: RNZ / Jimmy Ellingham

In recent years equestrian groups had participated in consultation.

For example, Yeo had put forward proposals for considering horse riders on the pathways being created alongside and connecting to the Manawatū Gorge replacement highway, Te Ahu a Turanga.

“We are currently revisiting the criteria for the path and will go out to stakeholders with this once completed. An additional hui to discuss proposals is expected to be held in April,” Stewart said,

There were challenges in providing safe shared pathways for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.

These included space, options for separation, geography, and wear and tear.

Rangitīkei MP Ian McKelvie accepts the petition from Arthur Yeo.

Rangitīkei MP Ian McKelvie accepts the petition from Arthur Yeo.
Photo: RNZ / Jimmy Ellingham

“Waka Kotahi will continue to engage with the equestrian community and we are committed to maintaining current levels of access.”

McKelvie said he accepted the petition because he had a long association with horses and equestrian.

“I certainly think there’s room for horses to be accommodated in what they’re desiring to do, which is, basically, make sure that horses are able to use some of our tracks and trails, and they are considered when new roads are being built .”

McKelvie didn’t think that was happening, although there were opportunities, such as with the track running next to the Kāpiti Expressway.

“I think it’s easy to provide for them and I don’t think we’re particularly paying attention to that.”

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