• Nick Smith

Conservation Minister Nick Smith today announced that a small scale muster of Kaimanawa horses is scheduled to begin this weekend, weather permitting. The muster, which will occur in the Kaimanawa ranges as part of the ongoing management of the herd of 500 wild horses.

"A count in May showed that the horse population on the army training area has grown to about 610. Over the weekend we will be mustering about 110 horses to maintain the population at the 500 agreed in the Kaimanawa Wild Horse plan. The Department has reached agreement with the Kaimanawa Wild Horse Preservation Society, who will take responsibility for co-ordinating the on-selling of the mustered horses to suitable new owners. The Department and Society is working to ensure as few of the horses as possible are put down or sent to the abattoir. People interested in taking a horse can contact the Society directly or through the Department."

The muster will be conducted in the same way as previous years. It will only take a few days, but is dependent upon suitable weather conditions. The scale of the muster operation is small compared with last year when 1078 horses were taken from the Kaimanawa ranges.

An experienced veterinarian will be present to ensure animal welfare considerations are taken into account. No horses will be put down unless the vet decides they are in poor condition, deformed or injured. As with previous musters, only a few horses are expected to fit into this category.

"The Government is committed to maintaining a viable population of Kaimanawa wild horses but wants to ensure that this is in harmony with protecting the fragile and unique high country lands of the Kaimanawa ranges. To allow the horse population to grow unrestrained and disregard the consequences is neither in the interests of the landscape or the horses."

"I will be asking the Department of Conservation to establish an advisory committee to oversee the ongoing management of the Kaimanawa wild horses. This advisory committee will run for the next two years, prior to a review of the Kaimanawa Wild Horse Management Plan in 2000. The committee will include representatives from the New Zealand Vets Association, RNZSPCA, Landcare, Massey University, Kaimanawa Wild Horse Preservation Society, Forest and Bird, Conservation Board, adjacent landowners and Iwi."