Horse-trekking has become a very popular and growing
recreational activity. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Department of Conservation policies need to ensure that
high country horse heritage is remembered, fostered and
supported, horse-trekking enthusiasts say.
The High Country Pleasure Riders group, which was established
in 1999 and is the largest horse-trekking club in the South
Island, has made submissions to Doc's draft conservation
management strategies in both Canterbury and Otago.
The club has an annual calendar of weekend horse treks
throughout the high country, often traversing public
Those rides often provided ''gateway experiences'' to the
back-country, with members often making repeat visits in a
private capacity or undertaking more challenging multiday
In its submission, the group said horses played a crucial
role in the early development of the South Island high
country, moving freight, shepherds and their stock and other
travellers via a network of remote tracks, long before roads
Riders valued the solitude and peace, passed through the
landscape quietly and travelled at a walk, posing little risk
to other user groups and causing minimal damage to the land.
The club's aspiration for the South Island high country
public estate was that it was the ''greatest horse-trekking
destination on earth'', providing unsurpassed recreational
opportunities for individuals, clubs and commercial
The group was willing to partner with Doc to help turn that
vision into reality by providing detailed information about
riding routes and volunteer labour to assist with the
identification of pack tracks, erection of horse paddocks,
horse track marking and maintenance.
Horse-trekking was a very popular and growing recreational
activity ''and a part of our heritage, as is the conservation
land that we access'', it said.
In particular, its vision saw the original pack tracks mapped
so riders could find and use them.
Two areas of concern were changes in the Ahuriri and
Ruataniwha conservation parks, where the group wanted the
status quo for access to remain.
''Denying access to certain areas by activity unless a
problem is proven is simply wrong,'' it said.
When contacted, a Doc spokeswoman said the draft conservation
management strategies for Canterbury, Otago and Southland
made horse access less restrictive than was now the case.
''These draft CMS's broadly provide for horse access to all
conservation areas (not including reserves and national
parks), only limited by topography and vegetation and some
areas with sensitive environments (e.g. wetlands) or where
there is potential conflict with other users.
''Currently, permits are required for this activity under the
"However, the draft CMS's will allow this activity without
permit,'' she said.
In the Ahuriri conservation park, the draft strategy
confirmed access for horses on all access and four-wheel
drive roads, up the Ahuriri Valley (avoiding wetlands) and
the Snowy Hut and Hideaway Biv routes.
In Ruataniwha, access was provided for on the Hopkins and
Dobson valley floors and Ben Ohau Range.