Safety and convenience: horses on the South Track

We want your views. For safety and other reasons horse riders want to be able to use the South beach track off Reay Mackay Grove. Please read the item and tell us what you think.

Horse and rider at Waikawa Beach.

We have a safety issue on Waikawa Beach, and it’s to do with horses. We want your views about what action to take.

Imagine this: you’re down on the beach enjoying your favourite recreational activity, perhaps flying a kite or model aircraft or riding your dirt bike. The kite’s fluttering in the breeze, swooping and diving. It’s good fun.

Now a horse and rider come along after a good jaunt along the beach. The rider sees the kite, between them and the only exit from the beach horses are allowed to use: the vehicle entrance. This rider knows their horse, like many horses, will startle at the erratic movements of the kite.

They can see there’s no room to get around the folks having fun with their kite as there are vehicles driving around nearby.

Folks train their horses as best they can, but just like dogs and people, horses vary in their response to events in the world around them. Some well-trained horses will ignore something like a kite swooping, while another, equally well-trained, may take fright.

As a responsible rider, and in the interests of everyone’s safety, they’d like to exit the beach another way when a tricky situation arises.

That’s the kind of scenario that underlies a petition from about 50 horse riders to the Horowhenua District Council asking to be allowed to use the South Track off Reay Mackay Grove.

Horses aren’t allowed on either beach track off Reay Mackay Grove, and the Council don’t, as a rule, allow horses and pedestrians to share a track, but there could be a way to give horse riders that safe exit from the beach that they’re after.

Ann Clark, Parks and Property Lead South • Kaiārahi ki te Tonga, Papa Rēhia, Rawa, Horowhenua District Council says:

…we have identified a number of options that could allow horses access at that point and the next steps would be to get the communities feedback through the association on what would be agreeable.

I see the following options could be feasible and achievable (someone else may have better ideas):

  1. Allow the path to be shared with horses required to move off the track to give people right of way
  2. Split the path (potentially simple post and rope) to create a physical separation — horses one side only
  3. Option 1 with the requirement that riders dismount and walk their horses along the track

As far as the post and rope path, I’m not talking anything huge or elaborate and it could be something we could get the many riders (50+ on the petition) to help us put in

All of these options will need to have appropriate signage which we can create.

There is a fourth option to consider too: doing nothing and leaving horse access to the beach as it currently is. Riders who find their way blocked by recreational activity or perhaps an incoming tide will just have to wait, tough it out or get creative with how to ensure the safety of themselves, their horse and the public.

Down in Ōtaki (Greater Wellington Region) the track along the Ōtaki River is shared by walkers, cyclists and horses. The sign below helps clarify how that should work.

Ōtaki shared track sign.
Ōtaki shared track sign.

You might ask: why do riders want to use the South Track rather than the North Track? The answer is that the North track is still too close to the vehicle entrance and the sand near the North track is a popular area for motorbikes and others. The safety issue would not be well resolved with that track.

Other factors, besides safety, underlie the petition for horses to be allowed to use the South track: ease of access and convenience.

There are several horse owners on the Strathnaver side. It would be easier, safer and more convenient for them to be able to legally access the beach without riding round Strathnaver Drive to the village.

At times the vehicle entrance is very busy and that end of Manga Pirau Street is full of vehicles and people. Riders would like an alternative, quieter, access to the beach.

We would really like to hear from you about which access option you prefer. We can convey the feeling from our community to the Council so they can consider what action to take. Ideally, if any changes are to be made they would happen in November, before the summer holiday.

Please leave your comments below before 7 am on 21 October 2018. The Association’s next committee meeting is later that morning.

26 thoughts on “Safety and convenience: horses on the South Track”

  1. Im moving up here later this year and I would like to be down on the beach enjoying my favourite recreational activity of riding my horse.
    I would like to enjoy common courtesy with fellow beach-goers and hope we can share the track similar to Otaki river.
    Being option 1
    Unfortunately I’m not an able bodied rider so frequently having to mount/dismount or walk would mean I could not get to the beach, likewise not being able to ride would also mean I am less likely to be able to go to the beach
    Thank you

  2. No brainer to give horses another entry/exit at the South exit. And I’m sure it could simply be a shared access with horses giving way to humans, provided theres enough space for the horses to pull over.

  3. As a horse rider and a user of the current entrance for horses.
    It is a wonderful experience having everyone there doing what they love.
    It is however very hard to park respectfully and enter the beach with so many vehicles in and out and people walking in groups.
    You can plan to give way but then there may be a vehicle driving up the other side.
    Perhaps visibility could be improved.

  4. Option 1 ie horse move off the path but do riders do not have to dismount.
    I visit from Kapiti to ride in Waikawa. In Kapiti, horses, walkers, runners, cyclists share paths and tracks. Courtesy applies and whoever is in the most appropriate place to pull over will do so

  5. I have not ridden down at Waikawa beach for a long time as we used to come down from the Kuku end which has been closed off. But we do have a similar problem at Waitarere beach where horses are expected to use the vehicle access which is where most of the people congregate which is hazardous both the riders and pedestrians. I would strongly encourage the Council to consider separate horse access tracks or shared tracks with a divider to allow horses to access the beach away from the main pedestrian areas.

  6. I ride my horse at Waikawa Beach from time to time and to have access from the south track would be a great improvement for safety reasons. A shared track where people show respect for each other is all that I would need but I can see that a physically divided track makes for no misunderstanding for users. Thank you Waikawa residents for giving us the opportunity to let you know how we feel about being able to ride at your lovely beach, it is a privilege to have such an awesome place to enjoy.

  7. Yes please give horses access to the entrance. Dismounting however will be a huge obstacle for a lot of riders. If this is considered, please provide mounting blocks on either side. Kapiti has experience with this.

  8. It’s always better if we can learn to share and appreciate and respect each others’ differences. That goes for our modes of transport and recreational activities as well. Providing a safe entrance/exit for horses is a no brainer and in everyone’s interest.

  9. My preference is for using the southern exit, as it is much quieter and also doesnt change like the northern exit.

  10. Option 1 is my preferred option. We often ride at the beach as we are residents. Vehicles, dogs, motorbikes and people can make the Manga Pirau Street entrance unsafe at times, especially over summer. I would be against Option 2 with the rope and post barrier as it could be a potential hazard if a horse startled and got caught in the rope.

  11. Awesome resolution Josien… providing mounting blocks would be great. I am still a but hung up on the fact that horse riders are users of the area and many are rate payers so we should have a safe and open access to the beach, which is legally a road !

  12. Shared path is all we ever use at other beaches as long as there is enough room to give way to each other it’s not a problem. The signage is vital and the Otaki ones are perfect and very clear. We love riding at Waikawa Beach!!!

  13. As a horse rider there are sometimes moments we can foresee a situation where either our horse or a beach goer could become excited or distressed, an alternative exit would be a great advantage. I’m sure many would use it without hesitation to remove themselves safely from the area. The #1 option, at little or no cost would be an ideal start, and may later lead to further discussion and plans as the Waikawa population grows. It is also greatly appreciated that the Waikawa residents are considering horse riders as part of their community and continuing to promote the beach as the wonderful family fun place for all, as it has been since I was a very young child. Love it!

  14. Option 1 sounds perfectly safe and workable. I have ridden in many different areas over the years where both walkers and horses being ridden share a track without drama. A mounting block on either side of the track would be a bonus. Manga Pirau Street does get very busy during summer and this isn’t ideal for accessing the beach on a horse.

  15. Option 1 ie horse move off the path but riders do not have to dismount.
    I visit from Shannon to ride in Waikawa. In Kapiti, horses, walkers, runners, cyclists share paths and tracks. Courtesy applies and whoever is in the most appropriate place to pull over will do so.

  16. Lets share and be courteous as many others have suggested. Only plse no complaints from riders about dog owners then continuing to use it. Tolerance and courtesy extends in both directions.

    There maybe a little input over parked horse floats in the area though…… so perhaps that needs some thought on a solution/suggestion as to where in order to keep everyone “happy”..??
    And no I don’t live on said road.

  17. Perhaps one of the Ratepayers Association Committee members could enlighten us as to how this fits in with the current investigation into a permanent vehicle access to the beach. As discussed at the public meeting of 19 May 2018, the southern beach access off Reay Mackay Grove is one of the options being considered and at the moment is the only viable one.

    1. The Horowhenua District Council have made it clear that as this track is only 5 metres wide they won’t consider it for vehicle access. The north track is wider and I believe the Council think it’s more suitable and the only one of the two they would consider for vehicles.

  18. Horse riders have been using this pedestrian walkway illegally for years,they scare small chidren and act as if they have the right to re write the road rules unloading horses on the road were there is no safe parking area or unloading site for one horse float let alone 50 users,telling people to slow down when its a 50khn area and we have horse shit left all over the road and walkway.
    The no horses signs have been painted over in the past and HDC is aware of this.
    As a resident of this area i dont see why we need this hassle in our neighbour hood by parties from outside the area when waitarere beach is close and set up for this purpose and as horses are technically vehicles they already have access at Waikawa Beach.
    The access is also advertised on bridleways sites and will be advertised to user well outside our area.
    We have issues with unrestrained dogs that are not well attended by HDC so i cant see them policing the horse riders activities.
    We as residents of this area oppose the application should it go ahead i think a appropriate carpark and seperate access would need to be provided to be fair to the people that live here and not just visit and leave

  19. As residents living in this area we have had horses unloaded on the road and horse riders acting like the have the right to tell us to slow down or hold us up whilst unloading blocking the road, we have had them scare our small granchildren riding large horses on the walkway and painting out the no horses sign.
    Also piles of horse shit left on the track and road.
    Were would 50 horse floats park horse riders all over the country would use this advertised on bridleways and frankly they already have access at Waikawa beach.
    As residents the only way id support this is if council built a seperate access with a huge off road parking area

  20. As a bach owner and regular user of Waikawa Beach I disagree with this proposal. The article above is emotive and appears to be written to support the horse owners. I suspect this is much more about convenience than safety. How often do kites, model planes or dirt bikes prevent horses from leaving the beach safely?? Do we have some evidence, some statistics, that demonstrate the extent of this “safety issue”, the problem that is supposedly being solved?

    I am concerned that it will replace one risk with a much greater risk.

    The current access is shared by vehicles, walkers, and horses. Because it is a vehicle access way families and children know to approach with caution. It is also relatively short so it is usually easy to see if cars or horses are approaching and it is easy to step aside to avoid them. That is not the case with the walkways which are narrow and long. And while it might be proposed that walkers have right of way, who will police that?

    To quote the article: “Folks train their horses as best they can, but just like dogs and people, horses vary in their response to events in the world around them. Some well-trained horses will ignore something like a kite swooping, while another, equally well-trained, may take fright.”

    So we acknowledge that horses, even well trained ones, sometimes take fright. And yet we are proposing that these horses share a very narrow pathway with children – who are prone (even the well trained ones) to acting in “erratic” ways that I suspect are far more problematic than the mentioned kites (given that, unlike a kite, they are in the horse’s way and, literally, under its nose!) The suggested simple cheap rope “barrier” will make no difference if a horse takes fright and rears over a child.

    Kites and horses are relatively rare users of the beach. Children on the other hand are not only one of the largest groups of users, they are also one of the most vulnerable. I am an adult and I find horses a little intimidating and scary. I am sure many children feel the same. Is the convenience for the few horse owners worth the risk and inconvenience to the many children?

  21. Thanks for the opportunity to comment on this issue
    Safety is really important to me both accessing the beach and on the beach
    I have a small Dog who loves to run on the beach
    She is not good with horses and so I worry about the safety of horses sharing the south track. This will also impact on small children that use this track
    The track is up and down and so in some places along the track you can’t see what or who is coming until they there.
    I do understand the case horse owners are making but I am not in favour of opening up the south track to them. Safety for the current users is my priority
    Chris Wood
    Henham Lane off Strathnaver Drive

  22. Opening up the south track on Reay Mackay to horses is an option that we do not support.
    Presently we have several Reay Mackayers taking their horses along this track, this infrequent and low-level use of the south track does not concern us.
    If you open it up to every horse person and signpost it then becomes a public access for horses which will end up on websites and facebook pages and we will have groups of horses and vehicles and horse floats and associated poop to deal with.
    Safety on the track is an issue when you mix horses and pedestrians and children and dogs as the track is only 5 metres wide and winds through the dune formation – not like the Otaki River track which is over 20 metres wide and 100 metres in places.
    We have a fragile sand-dune ecosystem which could be damaged by many horses accessing it.
    The traffic safety concerns in relation to horse floats unloading horses, parking and turning, this is a country road with limited berm space.
    Having the pedestrian walkway is a major reason why we bought our section and have lived here permanently for over 10 years, we use this beach access most days with our 3 small dogs.
    It is a safe pedestrian access to the beach and we do not feel comfortable meeting a group of horses on this track.
    As residents living at this beach we need to make our opinions heard to protect this place that we have made our home.

  23. This is clearly a vexed issue and it is easy to understand the wishes of the many horse-owners who have written comments here regarding their desire for better access to the beach. However, I believe there are strong reasons to be cautious about supporting what some see as the rights of horse-owners when these will likely bring negative consequences for others and for the area overall. These include:
    1. Risks to children, dogs, elderly and disabled users arising from a shared or adjacent track.
    2. Damage to the sand dunes and bird nesting habitats from increased horse traffic.
    3. Road and traffic dangers from increased numbers of horse-floats and riders using narrow, rural roads with no beach parking – and before anyone gets excited and says, “Then let’s provide parking”, this could be a short-sighted response given that it would increase even further the traffic and people on the roads and dunes.
    4. If we step away from a commitment to first and foremost respecting the natural environment that makes Waikawa Beach such a unique coastal settlement, we risk having to bow to pressure from other groups asserting “their” rights to be given beach access – risks I do not believe we can afford to take in an environment where already we need more spinifex-planting days to further secure the dunes.
    For these reasons I do not support the expansion of access options for horse-riders.

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