Last month, Ōpōtiki District Council warned horse owners in the Ōpōtiki township that urgent action was required to reduce horse numbers and ensure stock was safely contained. The risk was highlighted again on Tuesday morning when a vehicle hit a roaming horse just outside town. While the car was damaged, the adult and two children in the car were unharmed.
Council's Planning and Regulatory Group Manager, Gerard McCormack said that the accident this morning highlighted the risks of uncontained horses. He said that in recent weeks some horse owners had started taking action and council had impounded several horses as well so the numbers were slowly reducing. But more action was required.
"When our horse problem was raised in the news last month, we had a lot of discussion on local Facebook pages and around town about the horse numbers. And I appreciate that having horses in town is part and parcel of life in Ōpōtiki – I know that it is part of what makes living here special for many people. But we got to a point that it wasn't sustainable; there isn't enough grazing, there aren't enough securely fenced areas and animal welfare was suffering as well. The last thing anyone wants is another accident because a wandering horses is on the road and the animal or people are injured.
"We currently have in the pound seven horses from town. Four of these we have arranged to be re-homed out of the urban area. It looks like the remaining three had been stolen so we are able to return those to the rightful owner and they will be moved out of town as well.
"We have also seen some voluntary action from horse owners and there are certainly fewer horses in the CBD. But we need more of them moved out and we need to focus on animal welfare as well.
"Welfare is SPCA's area of responsibility and they have raised issues with horses tethered without water or without enough feed, no shelter or tethered in flood-prone areas in the Ōpōtiki District. We are working with SPCA to make sure that horse owners know their legal responsibilities and penalties that they may face," Mr McCormack said.