Council discourages horse riding on beaches despite bylaw invalidity

Waikato District Council is asking people not to use the Wainui Reserve to access the beach for horse riding despite it coming to light that a bylaw covering this activity is invalid.

Council’s Reserves and Beaches Bylaw 2016 states that: “No person shall lead or ride any horse or other animal on any area of a reserve except on those areas set aside specifically for such purpose, or with the prior written permission of the council.”

Under the Reserves Act 1977, a bylaw of this nature requires ministerial approval for it to become enforceable.

This last step was not completed back in 2016 which means council is unable to prosecute for breaches of the bylaw

This information was revealed when Horse Access Advocates Waikato Inc. (HAAWI) instigated a judicial review of the bylaw after council installed signs advising people were not allowed to ride horses at Wainamu Beach in Raglan.

Council is proposing to rectify this error by creating a new bylaw this year, which is likely to cover activities included in the current, unapproved bylaw. 

The proposed draft bylaw will go out to the local community for consultation and submissions will be considered before the final bylaw is adopted by council and ministerial approval is sought. 

Anyone making submissions will be given the opportunity to present their views to the council in person.

In the meantime, council continues to discourage horse-riding on beaches.

Taking the popular beach areas of Wainamu and Ngarunui beaches in Raglan as an example, the reasons for this include:

– There are shellfish beds in the intertidal areas of the beach that are exposed to potential damage from horses being ridden on the beach.

– A lot of work has gone into restoring the sand dune areas in an effort to combat effects of erosion. There are some horse riders who continue to venture into the dunes, damaging this environmentally sensitive area.

– As the district grows, like Raglan is doing, there’s more potential for horse v human conflict increasing the health and safety risk.

“While we acknowledge the recreational value of riding horses, and we are sure that many horse riders are responsible and considerate when carrying out their chosen recreational activity, we still feel the potential risks outlined above are serious enough for us to continue to discourage people from riding their horses from our reserves on to the beach,”council’s general manager service delivery Roger MacCulloch says.

“The procedural error made six years ago is regrettable and we will be creating a new bylaw this year.

“But it is important to note that community input will play a vital role in shaping up the bylaw through engagement and consultation with our communities.”