Pony club faces hurdles

Wednesday, Feb 17 2021

Pony club faces hurdles

Will Johnston

There are fears the New Plymouth Pony Club could fold if kicked off the racecourse – a location it’s been for more than 70 years.

Currently, the club occupies a large area at the northern end of the New Plymouth Raceway and claims it wasn’t considered in the new multi-sport hub plans on the site.

Sport Taranaki chief executive Michael Carr said the needs analysis completed in December 2019 clearly showed the most urgent need for space was around indoor court space and artificial hockey turf, with supporting facilities and general-purpose playing fields.

“The facilities at the New Plymouth multi-sport hub are designed to fit the greatest community need and will cater to thousands of weekly users,” he said.
The proposed facility, to be built in two stages, will include grass fields, a six-court indoor stadium along with outdoor court and turf space for an array of sports.

Pony Club president Nicky Howarth said it has been in discussions with Sport Taranaki, which is driving the project, and the New Plymouth District Council (NPDC).

But to date, there are no alternative locations for its clubrooms and area to hold its 25 events per year.

“We worry this will be detrimental to our club,” she said.

“When the multi-sports hub proposal was launched in September 2020, there was no consideration at all for our pony club. I think we had been forgotten even though we have been represented at all the Sport Taranaki meetings.”

Howarth said it took correspondence from the club’s honorary solicitor Megan Gundesen and Taranaki Pony Club president Rob Sullivan before Sport Taranaki acknowledged that relocation for the club needed to be considered.

Carr said people attending pony club transport their horses using a horse float, so there was little need for the club to be in the central city, whereas  an important benefit of this location was that it allowed kids and others to walk, bike, scooter or bus to participate in activities at the multi-sport hub.

“It’s been five months since the launch of the sports hub proposal, but we are no closer to finding other location options,” Howarth said.

Carr said Sports Taranaki and NPDC had various discussions with the pony club about its future, including equine facilities that would benefit North Taranaki riders.

Howarth said staying at its current location was important to the club.

“It’s central and so visible. We have put a lot of time, effort and finances into making it a good club for everyone who attends.”

She said the racecourse was unique as an inner-city location that is close to where members live to maintain and grow numbers.

“If we do not find a new location and are asked to leave it will almost certainly cause our club to fold.”

Sport Taranaki has offered some funding and support with developing a facility plan for equestrian sport.

“This offer has yet to be taken up,” said Carr.