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Foul over footpath

CARYN WIGMORE
Last updated 08:00 25/10/2012
Manure
DISGRUNTLED RATEPAYER: Haydon Mattson claims horse riders are ignoring signs stencilled on a Whenuapai footpath.

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Horses trotting on the new footpath in Totara Rd are causing a stink in Whenuapai.

Irate residents are crying foul over horse manure littering the walkway which bears yellow "No Horse Riding" signs stencilled by Auckland Transport. They say the animals endanger pedestrians and are cracking the path.

Ratepayer Haydon Mattson says he is disappointed by the "disrespect and appalling attitude" of some riders.

"The horse droppings are just plain disgusting," the law student says.

"It's not just a little bit - it's every day and it's a lot."

He says that unlike dog owners, horse riders fail to clean up the excrement.

Some refuse to give way to people who regularly use the 1.5 metre wide path, the Whenuapai homeowner says.

"It's totally unacceptable for dog walkers, runners and pedestrians to walk around a 400kg horse."

Mr Mattson says horses which leave the footpath to sidestep pedestrians are damaging driveways and carving up berms.

Horse riders are deliberately flounting the law by riding on the footpath and pose a health hazard to pedestrians, he says.

Mothers with pushchairs are riled to find the wheels coated in horse manure.

Whenuapai Ratepayers and Residents Association secretary Andy Milne lives on Totara Rd and walks his dog there daily.

He liaised with Auckland Transport to paint stencils banning horses from the walkway but says the signs are blatantly ignored.

"The path wasn't designed to carry the weight of a horse and it's breaking up already. It's going to cost a lot of money to repair it."

He backs the idea of bridleways, which are used in Britain.

"It's not an issue of not liking horses," he says. "Our concern is health and safety."

Mr Milne says horses are damaging the grass berms by cutting deep hoof prints.

It cost one resident $500 to replace a lawnmower blade wrecked by a horse hoof stuck in the grass, he says.

Media liaison officer of Auckland Transport Mark Hannan says the law is very clear: "Riders cannot take their horses on the footpath or the berm."

The Land Transport Rule 2004 states: "A rider of an animal must not ride along a footpath, or on any lawn, garden, or other cultivation adjacent to or forming part of the road."

The offence carries a $55 fine and is enforced by the police, he says.

Get the Riders side of the story below.

Horses on footpath to avoid speeders

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Equestrians irked by the manure slinging say they are forced on to Totara Rd footpath to dodge speeding cars.

Justine Boot of Whenuapai says she has ridden her horse on the footpath a few times because Totara Rd is proving too dangerous. Motorists often speed at 100kmh on the 80kmh stretch which hosts two blind corners, she says.

Mrs Boot has fallen victim to several near misses while trotting along Totara Rd.

"I've had cars pass very close to the side of my horse at speed and that's pretty scary," she says. "Even if your horse is well schooled, an animal can be unpredictable and takes fright easily. A motorist nearly hit her horse after failing to see the pair.

"I had to yell really loudly - he stopped just short of my horse." Whenuapai is in the country but many residents lack an appreciation of horses," she says.

"They just see horses as an inconvenience. I think that's a real shame because when you're in a rural area you need to embrace things rural."

Mrs Boot says she guides her horse off the footpath to give way to walkers.

She kicks any droppings on to the grass verge where it is biodegradable.

"I think there are a few who let the rest of us down, who don't acknowledge drivers who slow down and who do leave manure on the footpath."

Jan Shackell, district commissioner of Whenuapai Pony Club, says most members ride on the road and it is unlikely they use the footpath.

"You will find it's more adults or people that live in town and graze their horses out in this area." She says riders who do trek the path are dodging cars exceeding the speed limit.

"Their horse might be a bit nervous and kick out or jump at them so it's safer for the horse to get out of the way. You never know which way a horse is going to jump."

She says the club has been talking to the council about providing a place to ride down main roads because there are a lot of blind corners in Totara Rd. Ms Shackell says she can understand why pedestrians are upset by animal droppings "but unfortunately if a horse gets nervous, it will do a nervous poo".

She says equestrians traverse the path for the safety of riders and drivers and are not showing disrespect. "Before that footpath was there everybody used the same area and nobody complained.

"It's just that it's been prettied up by having a footpath put in that we can't use."

- Norwest News

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