Council caught with chaps down
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.