Coun­cil caught with chaps down

The Horowhenua Mail - - FRONT PAGE - ADAM POULOPOULOS AND JOEL MAXWELL

A turf war between cow­boys and lo­cals has lurched from Mex­i­can stand­off to French farce af­ter a coun­cil lease ended up on Boot Hill.

The Gold CoastWestern Rid­ing Club had an ex­clu­sive 10-year lease ap­proved last June for re­serve land on the Kapiti Coast north of Welling­ton.

But then the sher­iff was caught with his chaps down.

The lease faced bit­ter op­po­si­tion from lo­cals at Reiko­rangi, east of the burg ofWaikanae, who wanted open ac­cess to their own re­serve.

Com­pli­cat­ing the stand­off was the fact the club pre­vi­ously had agree­ments to use the land for 19 years and had built an arena and cor­rals there.

But the com­mu­nity posse cut Kapiti Coast District Coun­cil off at the pass - forc­ing more con­sul­ta­tion, and now an ad­mis­sion from the coun­cil the lease was legally shaky.

Res­i­dent Deb­bie Uren, speak­ing about the res­i­dents’ brush with coun­cil and club bucka­roos, said she thought the 1.8 hectares of land should be shared.

The clos­est equiv­a­lent land was Waikanae Park, an about 10-minute drive away.

A camp ground could also be built, Uren said. Te Araroa Trail ran be­side the re­serve at the north­ern end, and tram­pers had been com­ing off at Reiko­rangi and turn­ing up on nearby res­i­dents’ doorsteps, look­ing for a place to sleep.

It ap­pears the lo­cals might have been bush­whacked by the coun­cil’s lease. A re­port to coun­cil­lors ad­mit­ted ’’pro­ce­dural ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties’’ in the process.

Le­gal ad­vice sug­gested the club was prob­a­bly not even al­lowed ex­clu­sive use of the land, the re­port said.

The coun­cil would not re­lease the le­gal ad­vice, ‘‘to main­tain le­gal pro­fes­sional priv­i­lege’’, and it did not di­rectly an­swer ques­tions about the pro­ce­dural ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties men­tioned in the re­port.

It said a de­ci­sion ex­pected this week from coun­cil­lors was de­layed af­ter ‘‘use­ful dis­cus­sions’’ with lo­cals. This would al­low time for fur­ther dis­cus­sions between the com­mu­nity and the rid­ing club.

West­ern rid­ing dates back to the Amer­i­can Old West, with rid­ers dress­ing in tra­di­tional 10-gal­lon hats, and other west­ern gear, and us­ing cow­boy sad­dles, to com­pete in eques­trian events that in­clude ob­sta­cle cour­ses.

The club’s sub­mis­sion said it was non-profit and used the grounds for west­ern rid­ing, train­ing and com­pe­ti­tion.

There were 26 mem­bers from Welling­ton, through Kapiti and Horowhenua up to Palmer­ston North, it said. Mem­bers paid for and built the arena.

Coun­cil staff’s pre­ferred op­tion was leas­ing only the arena land to the club, for five years with the op­tion to ter­mi­nate early if needed, the re­port said.

Reiko­rangi Res­i­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion chair Ju­lia Palmer said the meet­ing was ‘‘re­ally pos­i­tive’’.

Af­ter the meet­ing atwixt the af­fected par­ties, staff would pre­pare a fol­low-up re­port and rec­om­men­da­tion to coun­cil­lors.

The club de­clined to com­ment.

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