Greater Wellington on track to expand casual horse-riding facilities in Queen Elizabeth Park
Greater Wellington is rebalancing equestrian recreation in Queen Elizabeth Park, ceasing most horse grazing in favour of expanding casual horse riding and trekking facilities while implementing its policy of restoring the natural environment of the park.
The move brings high intensity commercial grazing, that has significant and unsustainable environmental impacts in areas such as rare wetlands and fragile dune lands, to an end.
It follows a highly positive consultative process with the grazing license holder Kāpiti Stables Limited, which has offered horse trekking and grazing to horse owners under license in the park for many years. While options to continue grazing elsewhere in the park were considered none were found to be suitable. As a result, the current licence, which ends in November, will not be renewed.
This change will contribute towards realising the vision of Toitū Te Whenua, Greater Wellington’s Parks Network Plan (Toitū Te Whenua), which focuses on restoring healthy ecosystems. It sets a high level of environmental due diligence and precaution to support restoration of environmental health across parks.
With less than three per cent of the region’s wetlands remaining, the identification of new areas of wetland means they will now be prioritised for restoration via the park’s restoration programme, Recloaking Papatūānuku.
“Progressively restoring the park will be an important step towards improving and maintaining its environmental health and resilience. It will be a cause for celebration in years to come as the park returns to its more natural state and wetland birds return in greater numbers,” says Al Cross, Greater Wellington’s General Manager Environment Management.
“We do, of course, also acknowledge the interests of the equestrian community, and want to encourage recreation in the park. So, we’re planning improved horse float parking and opening new tracks and welcoming increased casual riding and horse trekking throughout the park.
“We want to maintain equestrian activity and allow it to thrive, but without negative impacts on biodiversity, freshwater, cultural values and climate change mitigation opportunities.”
Following advice from Greater Wellington scientists, a small, low impact pony club grazing area will be continued with reduced numbers on land deemed suitable for this activity.
“QEP has been very accommodating to horse grazing for over 30 years, but the time has come to phase the majority of it out in favour of supporting casual equestrian uses, restoring our environment and meeting the challenge of climate change by supporting natural resilience” says Al Cross.
Licence holder Rachael Martin says “Kāpiti Stables would like to thank the grazers and customers who have engaged in horse activities with us. Queen Elizabeth Park is an amazing environment for recreation and trekking in our community. Kapiti Stables encourages casual trekkers to continue to enjoy these facilities.”
In 2023 there will be two public consultation opportunities through a park master planning process, during which Greater Wellington, in partnership with mana whenua, will explore a range of other possible enhancements for recreation experiences and the environment of the park.
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