Pony Club fights to keep grounds

The popular Papakura Pony Club is fighting the Council to keep the only grounds available in the area.

Papakura Pony Club
Papakura Pony Club

Papakura Pony Club is battling Auckland City Council over plans to throw it off its grounds at Opaheke Park – a secret plan it only stumbled across by accident in June but has since discovered was signed off by the local board earlier in the year without any consultation with the Club or other user groups of the park. The plan allows the area to be turned into “storm water retention” for a major new housing development, next door in Bellfield Road.

In 2008, the council gave the club permission to make the park their new home – and club members are planning a last-ditch deputation on Wednesday to the local board’s meeting. They want board members to think again before committing the park – which has 12ha of open spaces with room to cater for a wide range of sport and recreational uses – to be consigned to stormwater ponds with only pathways for walking developed.

Papakura pony club has a proud history, going back 66 years. It has 73 members who enjoy a range of pony club activities, including dressage, cross-country, show jumping and horse management lessons – in which they learn how to look after their ponies’ welfare. They also run a “riders without horses” programme, whereby children who don’t have ponies of their own can come along, handle them and learn about their care.

Tim Price; Coach! Tim always enjoys going back to pony club when he is home
Tim Price, coach! Tim always enjoys going back to pony club when he is home

Pony club is a ground-roots organisation for young riders. Sir Mark Todd, Tim and Jonelle Price and other members of our current Olympic Eventing Squad are all past members.

With no other suitable public land available in the Papakura/Franklin area, the club is urging the council to reverse its decision and develop a plan that would enable the park to be fully utilised by everyone in the community, including the pony club.

Club President Ruth Sinclair says: “The key issue seems to be that the Bellfield development cannot retain its own storm water, and so they need to use public land to achieve this. The big developers are the winners here, forcing youth groups like ourselves out.”

Papakura PC won’t be the only losers; local residents will no longer be able to enjoy the park to the same extent either, with 300,000 cubic metres of soil removed and 12ha flat open spaces turned into storm water ponds. Lack of parking will limit public access, reducing the park to a space only accessible to those within walking distance.

The club has real concerns over the undemocratic way the matter has been dealt with by Auckland City Council – in particular, the way in June 2016, they gave two local board members the right to determine the decision, so removing the ability of the public to scrutinise the decision.

A few of the facts:

  • $200m new housing development: Bellfield Road, near Opaheke Park.
  • Developer: Motleon Group (owned by Sir Noel Robinson)
  • $4.25m contribution to park development
  • 41ha sport and recreation reserve
  • Papakura Pony club provides training and tuition to members aged: 5-25 years
  • NZ Pony Club Association is a voluntary organisation dedicated to enabling young people to become good riders, with branches all over New Zealand nzpca.org
  • The equine industry, which contributes over $1.5 billion annually to GDP and sustains 12,000 full-time equivalent jobs
  • The equine industry is a major employer in the Papakura District, with stables in surrounding Karaka and Ardmore/Clevedon as well as the Karaka Bloodstock Centre.
  • The Auckland Council has commissioned two reports “Auckland Purpose Built Equestrian Facilities” and the “Auckland Equestrian Facility Plan” both of which highlight the need for Pony Clubs which cater for localised use at entry level participation in equestrian sport.

If you would like to contact the Papakura Pony Club about this issue, you can contact Ruth Sinclair on 027-619 2413/09-238 0729 or email  papakuraponyclub@gmail.com


Information provided by Maxine Clayton, KMmedia Limited