Campaign to ban horse-drawn carriages fires up

By Rhonda Dredge

The tragic death of an un-named horse in Arden St, North Melbourne last month has sparked a series of emotional protests about horse-drawn carriages in the CBD.

The death of the horse while on the job was first reported in the April edition of CBD News.

A graphic picture of the horse’s body covered by a blanket while still attached to the carriage has galvanised animal activists. On Tuesday, April 13 demonstrators were outside Town Hall to protest, hoping to get their message across to those attending a council meeting.

By the next day Greens Cr Rohan Leppert had tabled an intention to put up a motion at the next committee meeting on April 20.

The motion, seconded by Cr Dr Olivia Ball, is calling for a forum on the issue within the next three months. 

While some may have been hoping for a stronger result, Cr Leppert said the forum would at least try and resolve a long-standing and complex issue.

Demonstrators in front of Town Hall were urging the City of Melbourne to ban the use of the horse-drawn carriages in the Hoddle Grid.

But the council maintains that is doesn’t have the power. It revoked the street trading licences of carriages in 2017 but protestors say that enforcement has been difficult.

They are calling for the council to lobby the state government, which controls legislation defining what constitutes a vehicle. Council officers don’t have the power to approach drivers of vehicles.

Cr Leppert’s move seeks to cut through what he calls “an impasse” between the local and state governments over the issue, which hit an emotional peak last month when the graphic pictures of the dead horse were published. 

Kristin Leigh, campaign manager for the Melbourne Against Horse-drawn Carriages, said that the incident had precipitated the recent bout of demonstrations.

“It has spurred us on to put on more pressure,” she said. “Potentially we’ll demonstrate at every council meeting. This is the second this year.” 

She said they had a petition online with almost 40,000 signatures. 

“We’ve been saying for seven years that horses will be injured and killed. This is not the first time.”

Cr Leppert said that with the increase in traffic in the city and increased truck movement with the Metro Tunnel works he was concerned that an accident was waiting to happen.

“I’m nervous about people coming back to the city,” he told CBD News. “This might be the year the roads crack.”

In the proposed motion Cr Leppert claims that Swanston St is the busiest in the world in terms of tram traffic but horse-drawn carriages are still operating there, particularly at weekends. 

Protestors say they have had enough. They cite cases of near-misses with cyclists, run-ins with trams, U-turns in the middle of the street and a host of other potentially dangerous activities. 

The forum will include all interested parties, including Victoria Police, the RSPCA and industry representatives.

“The council alone and the state alone can’t act,” Cr Leppert said. “The only way is to get agreement.”

He said that horse-drawn carriages could operate around the Domain Parklands just over Princes Bridge where there were fewer traffic issues.

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