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The Dunedin City Council is struggling to explain a rule change that riders fear could force horses off the city's beaches.
It was reported yesterday horses could be forced to stick to a thin strip of soft sand, between dunes and the high-tide mark at four of the city's beaches.
That alarmed riders and trainers, who feared the new rules risked injury to their animals and would force
horses off the city's beaches altogether.
The council's proposed new reserves and beaches bylaw aims to protect sand dunes and wildlife and includes new rules for drones and vehicles.
But Otago Daily Times attempts to clarify the proposals led to more confusion yesterday.
Council parks and recreation acting group manager Tom Dyer, responding to questions by email, confirmed no complaints had been received about wildlife injured or disturbed by horses on city beaches. Instead, the council's focus in changing the rules for horses was protecting the sand dunes, ''not to completely remove horses from beaches'', he said.
Asked why the new bylaw restricted horses to above the high-water mark, he said that was because ''that is where the DCC's jurisdiction ends, and where the Otago Regional Council's jurisdiction begins''.
That still represents a change from the council's existing reserves bylaw which covers four beaches and specifically highlights those where riders can ride below the high-water mark.
Asked why the wording had changed, and whether the change risked confusion, Mr Dyer said the council had ''modified language to ensure it was consistent throughout the document and with other relevant legislation''.
''Again, we will assess our options and consider making recommended improvements to the wording of the bylaw once feedback from submissions is analysed.''
Regional council staff were not available late yesterday to clarify the ORC's approach to horses on beaches.
Cr Kate Wilson, who asked for beaches to be included in the existing reserve bylaw's review, said her intention was to address public concern about wildlife being disturbed by vehicles.
However, including beaches appeared to have widened the review's scope ''quite markedly'', the wording suggested by staff was ''really ambiguous'' and the outcome ''may be unintentional'', she said.
Despite that, she defended the council's approach.
''I think it's a really good discussion to have with the community . . . I don't see anything wrong with that.
''Just because we have always done something, doesn't mean it's the way we should always do it in the future.''
Asked what harm horses did below the high-tide mark, she said she had not ''read all the papers on that''.