Thousands of New Zealand equestrians have signed a petition seeking to improve recognition of horses as a mode of transport, but will MPs now make the changes sought?
Petition organiser Jan Mossman says the recently organised electronic petition is growing daily, and she has been calling in the last of the paper petition forms – the only ones that will be officially recognised by Parliament.
More than 10,000 people have signed the paper petition, with some petition sheets still to be posted in.
The petition, started by Mossman in May last year, has the backing of the Royal Agricultural Society of New Zealand.
It calls on MPs to recognise horses as an alternative mode of travel, and proposes that the New Zealand Transport Agency must include ridden and driven horses in their planning and facilitation process. It wants the Royal Agricultural Society of New Zealand to be included in all discussions regarding walking, cycling and combined-access recreational trails.
Mossman is off to Wellington this weekend in preparation for the petition being presented to Parliament by the National MP for Rangitiikei, Ian McKelvie.
Mossman said the petitition was sparked because horses were now being excluded from some recreational trails, even roads that were once purpose-built for horse-drawn vehicles and the ridden horse.
- The 160km Motu Trails Cycle way on Old Motu Coach Road, opened on May 20 last year
- The 10km Ohakune Coach Road, opened in 2010.
- The 100km Waikato River Trails, opened late in 2009.
- The 110km Queenstown Trail, which used $5.4 million of public funding. It was opened recently by Prime Minister John Key.
“It is well overdue for us to fight for inclusion in planning around recreational facilities,” Mossman said.
“Riders run the gauntlet between the faster traffic and diminishing verges.
“Legislation does not recognise ridden and driven horses as an alternative mode of transport to cars, walkers and cyclists.”
The country’s once quiet, safe country roads have become too risky for horse riders, she said, with riders experiencing too many “near misses” from careless, dangerous drivers.
“Millions of dollars of taxes and rates money have been invested in developing trails for pedestrians and cyclists only. We need to act now to protect the rights of horse riders – as they are in Australia, Britain and the US.”
Mossman said riders needed safe riding on quiet country-road berms, and there needed to be better education of motorists on safe ways of passing horses.
The electronic petition had 904 signatures at the time of writing.
“We need as many signatures as possible before this Saturday,” Mossman said.
She stressed the need for New Zealand equestrians and their supporters to speak with one voice on the issue, which is backed by a Facebook page. She encouraged riders to “like” the page to stay informed on the issue.
“Signees don’t have to be horse riders – just believe in the philosophy we are promoting,” she said. “If not for us, then for our children’s children.”
Mossman pointed to some of the comments made by those supporting the petition as evidence of the need for reforms to make trails and roads accessible and safer for riders.
“It’s striking to me how politely the comments have been written following their harrowing experiences and glum future prospects on our ‘New Zealand Freedom Recreational Riding”.
Some of the comments:
- I own horses and road ride. My horse and I Have been hit by a car on a road because the driver decided to try and go past me on the wrong side of the road.
- When I was 12, I was hit by a car riding my pony. The driver did not give me enough space when passing, and when my pony shied he hit us, almost driving over my head as I fell on the road. Horses are not bikes – they have a mind of their own and will react to things that frighten them. Safer roadside riding spaces for us will mean the cars can’t get that close.
- I have had a friend have a horrid accident with her horse on a so-called quiet road, I have nearly died from idiots on the road, too. We have a right to be safe!
- Had a bad accident with a 4wd scarring my horse & ended up with multiple pelvic fractures – lucky to be alive. We need safe places to ride!
- I am a horse rider and have had too many close calls from inconsiderate drivers or drivers who even deliberately speed up past you.
- I now have my daughter who is 4 riding with me and it is unsafe for her to ride around the country roads as I did. I would love that the next generation could enjoy the outdoors as much as I did which includes road riding.
- I have had some very close calls whilst out riding and there was no need. I truly believe that people have forgotten how to drive around horses and need to be reminded before too many people die.
- I am a horse rider who is running out of safe roads to ride down! There just isn’t anywhere for me to ride anymore and it’s so boring riding round in circles in the paddock not only for me but my horse hates it, he prefers to get out and see something different.
- I am a horse rider in Coatesville, Auckland. I use to road ride 2-3 times a week but now find it to dangerous. Some drivers pass so closely that they have almost touched my whip.
All manually signed petitions need to be posted in by this Friday, to J. Mossman 10 Trig Rd; RD4 Tuakau 2694 Nth Waikato. The electronic petition and total number signed will be printed this Saturday.