• Nick Smith

Foals, Yearlings and Mares saved; Stallion demand insufficient
The Minister of Conservation Nick Smith is rapt that New Zealanders have responded so well to the challenge of finding homes for the horses being mustered from the Kaimanawa ranges. The horses are being removed to reduce the population to a level that will minimise the damage to the native plants and improve the overall health of the herd.

"The Department has received 218 applications from people wanting to adopt a Kaimanawa horse. Included in the registrations is one for a young filly from the Prime Minister, Right Hon. Jim Bolger and a further registration from Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Winston Peters who has expressed an interest in two young horses. The demands for foals and yearlings exceeds the number available and for the mares is very close to the numbers mustered. If these registrations are followed up with the purchases at the auctions in July, no healthy foals, yearlings or mares will go to the abattoir. This would be a tremendous outcome.

"The situation with the older stallions is not as positive. Experience shows that these horses are more difficult to handle and pose a far greater safety risk. We have received registrations for 98 stallions and even with a 25 percent buffer to give buyers some choice, there is a surplus of around 200 horses. To truck these horses to farms and put them through the stress of an auction when there is no prospect of finding them good homes is inhumane. For this reason, the surplus stallions will be taken directly to the abattoir."

"While this is a difficult decision, it is the most sensible and has the support of the Royal New Zealand SPCA and the New Zealand Veterinary Association. The younger and more healthy stallions will be retained to ensure sufficient are available for the few buyers who indicated an interest."

"In making this decision, I have considered the offer by the Kaimanawa Horse Action Network (KHAN) to take all surplus horses to a property on the East Coast. The suitability of the property and the prospective owners of the horses have been checked with the Gisborne District Council and Police. I am advised that the fencing of the property is totally inadequate to hold any stock, let alone wild stallions. I am further advised that the persons involved have convictions for burglary and arson and were prime police suspects in the killing of two cattle with an axe in the loading race on the proposed property. From an animal welfare and road safety perspective both the police and Gisborne District Council strongly oppose the KHAN offer. For these reasons, it has been rejected."

"The Department of Conservation has also received three other registrations for a large number of horses, one for 100, another for 40 and a third for 50. These potential owners will be given priority in the screening process and if they meet the necessary standard, will be offered the horses immediately at the reserve price of $100 each. This will minimise the handling of the horses and make the management of the auctions in July more manageable."

"We are making good progress in resolving this difficult issue. The muster operation was concluded at the weekend. A total of 1075 horses have been mustered. Some animals were very sick, had severe injuries or major deformities and needed to be put down. Others have died of natural causes. Seven of these have been in the field and five on the farm in Taihape. Any horses put down were done so at the request of the New Zealand Veterinary Association or RNZSPCA.

We gave a commitment to check that at least 500 wild horses would remain in the southern area of the Kaimanawa ranges. A count was conducted yesterday which showed that 517 horses are left behind. A further 13 that have been mustered are part of the Massey University immuno-contraception trial, and will be released. This leaves 530 horses in the wild."

"The next step is for the RNZSPCA to contact all 218 people who have registered and check their particulars to ensure they are suitable future owners of the horses. Applicants not approved by the RNZSPCA will not be eligible to participate in the July auctions. Finding any old home for the horses is not good enough, we want good homes."