Organisers of a petition seeking greater recognition of horses as a mode of transport in New Zealand have a paper chase on their hands, but they are determined to press on toward their target of 52,000 signatures.
Unlike countries such as Britain and the United States, which have formal structures in place for online petitions to lawmakers, the organisers need to get supporters to put pen to paper in support of the cause.
They have 8000 signatures to date for the petition, which will eventually be presented to parliament by the National MP for Rangitiikei, Ian McKelvie.
The petition, started by Jan Mossman in May, has the backing of the Royal Agricultural Society of New Zealand.
It calls on MPs to recognise horses as an alternative mode of travel, and compels the New Zealand Transport Agency to include ridden and driven horses in their planning and facilitation process. It wants the Royal Agricultural Society of New Zealand to be included in all discussions regarding walking, cycling and combined-access recreational trails.
Mossman said the petitition was sparked because horses were now being excluded from some recreational trails, even roads that were once purpose-built for horse-drawn vehicles and the ridden horse.
She offered several recent examples:
- The 160km Motu Trails Cycle way on Old Motu Coach Road, opened on May 20 this year
- The 10km Ohakune Coach Road, opened in 2010.
- The 100km Waikato River Trails, opened late in 2009.
- The 110km Queenstown Trail, which used $5.4 million of public funding. It was opened recently by Prime Minister John Key.
“It is well overdue for us to fight for inclusion in planning around recreational facilities,” Mossman said.
“Riders run the gauntlet between the faster traffic and diminishing verges.
“Legislation does not recognise ridden and driven horses as an alternative mode of transport to cars, walkers and cyclists.”
Getting the word out is crucial for petition organisers, as New Zealand lacks any umbrella group for all facets of the horse industry.
Copies of the petition can be downloaded from www.nzsporthorse.org
The petition’s Facebook page is here.