• Nick Smith

The Minister of Conservation Nick Smith, says his door still remains open to negotiate with the Wild Horse Trust take the remaining 100 horses mustered from the Kaimanawa ranges.

"The Wild Horse Trust was offered these horses, and I am disappointed they are not going to take them. The Department of Conservation was prepared to give the horses to the Trust, if it could prove that the Trust had the land and money to ensure the horses were well looked after, and that the horses would not be returned to the Kaimanawa ranges. Withdrawing from negotiations is disappointing, but my door is still open if the Wild Horse Trust wants to take the horses."

Mr Smith rejected allegations that the Department of Conservation had used obstructive tactics or was inept in its handling of negotiations concerning the horses.

"I was not satisfied that the $100,000 that the Trust was promised from the Franz Weber Foundation was sufficient to support 380 horses in the long term, in that the property they were proposing to purchase cost $800,000. The grazing costs of these horses are costing the government $23,000 per month, and so I was concerned that the Trust did not have the capacity to care for that number of horses in the long term. Other people have subsequently come forward and taken 280 horses. I am confident the Trust has sufficient resources to support the remaining 100 horses and have indicated to the Trust that the horses are available to them."

Mr Smith also rejected allegations that the government was deliberately out to destroy the Kaimanawa horses.

"530 wild horses remain in the Kaimanawa ranges. Of the 1060 mustered, all except 50 stallions that were sent to the abattoir and the 100 remaining, have found new owners. Homes have been found for all of the mares, yearlings and foals. Given the cynicism with which the "Adopt a Kaimanawa Horse" campaign was originally received, I think we have done very well in saving as many of the Kaimanawa horses as we have.

Mr Smith said that if an owner for the remaining 100 horses could not be found in the next week or two they would unfortunately be sent to the abattoir.