In a bizarre and disappointing move, the New South Wales government has announced that a proposed cull of wild horses in the Kosciuszko National Park will be scrapped, and any future cull will be outlawed.
The enormous damage caused by wild horses to the high country is widely documented. It is estimated that around 6,000 wild horses live within the Kosciuszko National Park in NSW. Plans to cull them have been supported by scientists and environmentalists but opposed by people who claim they represent part of the cultural heritage of the mountains. While this is certainly true, they are also massively destructive and a responsible government would be working to reduce their numbers.
Now the NSW government is moving to rule out any culls in the park.
In 2016, a draft Wild Horse Management Plan for NSW recommended reducing the number of horses in the park by 90 per cent over 20 years, primarily through culling, which would have left roughly 600 horses within the park. This plan was considered a difficult compromise as it would still leave significant numbers of the animals in the park and hence sustain their damaging impact. But pro brumby groups refused to accept this compromise.
Following a major campaign by groups opposed to the cull, the ABC is reporting that the plan will not go ahead, and the Government will instead look to pass legislation to ‘protect the animals’.
Deputy NSW Premier John Barilaro said the cultural significance of the brumbies needed to be recognised.
“Wild brumbies have been roaming the Australian alps for almost 200 years and are part of the cultural fabric and folklore of the high country,” Mr Barilaro said.
He said the “Brumbies Bill” would put an end to any suggestion the animals should be culled.
“The heritage management plan will specifically prohibit lethal culling of the brumby, aerial or otherwise, and will identify those areas in the park where brumbies can roam without causing significant environmental harm,” Mr Barilaro said.
“If brumbies are found in highly-sensitive alpine areas of Kosciuszko National Park, resources will be allocated towards relocation first, followed by re-homing, should population numbers grow too high.
“I have always opposed cruel forms of culling and have advocated for non-lethal ways of managing brumby numbers.
Wild horses to be built into the future of Kosciuszko
The bill will require all future plans of management for Kosciuszko National Park to consider the cultural significance of the horses.
“Kosciuszko National Park exists to protect the unique environment of the Snowy Mountains, and that unique environment includes wild brumbies,” Mr Barilaro said.
The Canberra Times quotes a key researcher, who says the decision is ‘madness’:
Professor Don Driscoll, from Deakin University, says Sunday’s decision will affect natural species, natural fauna and water supply, which could also affect the Snowy 2.0 scheme.
“It’s a disaster to our national heritage,” he said.
Professor Driscoll is part of a group of 41 scientists from 16 universities who wrote to former NSW Premier Mike Baird in 2016 saying the only way to save the unique ecosystem was to cull 90 per cent of the brumby population.
Brumbies in Kosciuszko have degraded 48 per cent of the national park.
The brumby population increased from 4200 in 2009 to 6000, despite 450 being removed each year, Professor Driscroll said.
The ‘Environment Minister’ for NSW, Gabriell Upton, is expected to introduce a so-called “Brumbies Bill” to parliament next week, prohibiting lethal culling of the animal.
It is not yet clear if the government has the numbers to see the legislation pass.
Please express your concern on social media, saying you don’t want the ‘Brumbies Bill’ to lock in devastating outcomes for fragile alpine environments.
@GladysB (Premier Gladys Berejiklian)
There is a petition to the Premier available here.