• Nick Smith

The Minister of Conservation Nick Smith today announced that auctions for the Kaimanawa wild horses will start on 2 August. The RNZSPCA has been busy checking out the applicants who applied for a horse under the "Adopt a Kaimanawa horse" campaign. 232 people have been approved to purchase 852 horses. Of the 258 people who registered an interest, six withdrew their applications and 20 were rejected. Mr Smith said he was pleased that 90 percent of the potential buyers had been approved by the RNZSPCA.

"Having the RNZSPCA check out prospective horse owners means we go some way towards ensuring horses go to good homes. While it is unfortunate that some people had to be declined, this was necessary to minimise the risks of animal welfare problems in the future."

RNZSPCA President Peg Loague said checking the applicants was a "monumental task."

"We telephoned the referees supplied by each applicant and asked them a number of questions. We wanted to find out about the applicants' knowledge and ability with wild horses, and if they had suitable facilities for accommodating them."

Nick Smith said the rejections of applicants were made by a panel of RNZSPCA members and emphasises that their decision is final.

The first auction will be at an Ohingaiti farm, near Taihape, where some of the horses are currently being kept. All of the male and female foals and yearlings will be presented at the first auction.

"Demand for yearlings and foals completely outstripped the numbers available. There will only be about 250 yearlings and foals at this auction, when people have requested 479. That doesn't mean people will definitely miss out on a young horse. The people who registered for the young horses may not buy as many as they originally indicated or might not all turn up."

"I want to thank all New Zealanders who are making an extreme effort to take a Kaimanawa wild horse. Without them all of the mustered horses would unfortunately be going to an abattoir. As well as these people, the RNZSPCA and other organisations involved in the "Adopt a Kaimanawa horse" campaign, have gone to great lengths to ensure the safety and welfare of the animals. The removal of this number of horses will make a great difference to the survival of rare native plants under threat in the Kaimanawa ranges."

Mares and stallions will be presented at subsequent auctions on August 9 and 16. Horses will only be sold to approved purchasers. The auctions will not be open to the general public. Applicants will be advised of the check results and auction dates in a letter this week.

For further information please contact Veronica Lysaght, Media Secretary, Minister of Conservation, ph 04 4719132 or home 04 384 9324. Media are invited to attend the auctions. Please contact Nicola Patrick, Public Awareness Officer, Department of Conservation, Wanganui. Phone 06-3452402, to register an interest in attending.