Wild horses have taken over this northernmost city
Wild horses in the Far North have been the subject of serious controversy in recent years. Photography: Steve Collier
Originally published on the offer
If you’re tempted by 90 Mile Beach after the gorgeous shots in TV drama Far North, here’s another reason to long for the small town of Ahipara: where a majestic troop of 12-15 wild horses has taken over the coastal town.
The horses took to the backyard of 73-year-old retired logger Steve Collier, a homeowner in Ahipara since 1996, as well as my father. In early July, he started sending me pictures of horse visitors grazing in his backyard and around town, with comments like “Got some new friends now,” “Look at this!”, and “How the Far North Council is saving money Cut barriers. “.
Wild horses have lived in the Far North for “donkey years,” my father told me over the phone: he first spotted a group of them 27 years ago when he was four-wheeling down Te Oneroa-a-tohi, “the other way down the end of 90 Mile Beach.” , in Te Upori Forest.”
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Dan, a local taxi driver with great knowledge of the Far North, confirms that wild horses have been in the area “forever,” and says there are two distinct herds: the Obori herd, which my father saw in the 1990s, and the Twaddle herd. Which cluster around the Toroa reef, southwest of Ahipara. The band now hanging around the Ahipara is from the last herd: Dan believes they may have separated due to a natural process in which stallions are driven out as the herd grows, then stealing the mares and forming a new band.
My father, who has no respect for private property rights, told me that the horses roamed freely from the beach to his yard. After they finish munching on his garden, they make their way up his driveway and continue munching in the nearby playground reserve. Selena, who runs Ahipara Horse Treks, says the horses go “anywhere and everywhere” as they please: to backyards, gardens, pastures — she’s even seen them wandering down the main road, past the Ahipara Superette and Bidz restaurants.
Wild horses in the Far North have been the subject of serious controversy in recent years. In the late 1990s, Department of Conservation staff shot and killed seven Opori horses, saying they destroyed a $100,000 electric fence surrounding the reserve lands, angering members of the local iwi, Ngāti Kuri. “One of the killed mares, known as Big Red, was a favorite with the children at Te Phapua School, and some of the pupils learned to ride on it,” the Herald reported. (The Ngāti Kurī Trust did not respond to an interview request for this story.)
These days, the debate continues, albeit on a smaller, quieter scale. Selina describes the local attitude towards horses as “very mixed”. “Some people love them and classify them as locals,” she says. “The other half hate them: they destroy their lawns, they get in the way of traffic, that kind of thing.” Dan confirms that he has heard complaints about horses “going wherever they want, walking over everyone’s sections, defecating everywhere, and making a mess.”
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“But Dad, Selena and Dan are all horse fans, as are most of the long-time locals,” Dan says. Some even make the most of everything. “I know an old farmer who drives around with a wheelbarrow and loves it, because he picks it all up and takes it to his garden,” Dan tells me.
Dan grew up in Ahipara, and horses are an integral part of the town’s history, he says. “We all grew up with horses. Everyone had their own horse tied up in their section. There weren’t a lot of cars and motorcycles and things like that, so everyone got around on horseback. If I had it my way, I would ride horses 100 percent of the time.
Despite their cruel takeover of his property, Dad sometimes feels moved by the horses’ humble lifestyle. “Yesterday I looked out the window, and they were all there,” he said, shifting into public speaking mode. “The sky got dark, the rain was pouring down, and they were all standing there, all facing the same direction, looking at the sea. And I felt a little sorry for them, you know. But that’s how they live their lives.”
Although it may be wet at times, the lives of horses in general are far from pathetic: they are magnificent, powerful creatures, with unrestrained running on the abundant ahibara grasses. The relationship is also symbiotic: wild horses graze in a picturesque seaside town, and the human residents enjoy the magnificent horse scenery. “They are completely accustomed to humans,” Selena says. “The kids will come up and pat them in the park.”
Such horses, although chaotic, arrogant and rebellious, are “creative to the Ahibara,” says Dan. My father’s lifelong friend Blue, another recipient of horse photos, sums up the situation well: “Man, does this beach keep on giving?”