Have you ever lived next to a bad neighbour who doesn’t care how their actions impacts on you? If so, then you probably know how Victoria and the ACT feel about NSW’s unwillingness to control the herds of wild horses that range in the Snowy Mountains.
The enormous environmental impacts of wild horses are widely documented. In spite of this, the NSW government has aligned itself with the ‘brumby lobby’, which wants to keep wild horses in the Kosciuszko national park for ‘cultural reasons’. They have legislated to protect the horses from culling. Given that there is no fence between the mountains in NSW and adjoining states, this negligence is impacting Victoria and the ACT.
In Victoria, the Andrews government released a long-term plan to protect the Alpine National Park from the threat of feral horses.
The Protection of the Alpine National Park – Feral Horse Strategic Plan 2018-2021 aims to radically reduce wild horse numbers in the park. In announcing the plan, Minister D’Ambrosio said “feral horses cannot be allowed to run rampant in the Alpine national park – their hard hooves damage the precious environment and destroy the habitats of threatened species.”
According to the Victorian government, “there are an estimated 2,500 feral horses in Victoria’s eastern alps, causing significant damage to threatened plant and wildlife species within the Alpine National Park”.
Under the Victorian government’s plan, the primary control technique will be to trap feral horses and rehome as many as possible. Those that cannot be rehomed will be ‘humanely euthanised’.
Under the plan, the government intends to remove ‘up to’ 400 feral horses a year for three years from the eastern alps, where as many as 2,500 of the animals are causing “significant damage” to threatened plant and animal species. A smaller population of 80 to 100 horses in the Bogong high plains will be removed entirely.
Now, concerns over the growing population of feral horses in NSW near the ACT border has led the ACT government to declare the wetlands in Namadgi National Park “endangered”.
According to a report in The Canberra Times, the high-country wetlands provide Canberra with its clean drinking water supply but the delicate bogs – which naturally filter the water – could be devastated by feral horses.
A brumby population estimated between 1000 and 2000 lives just across the NSW border in the nearby areas of Tantangera and Long Plain.
ACT park rangers have expressed concern that new NSW laws protecting the pests would allow the population to grow unchecked before spreading into the ACT.
The wetlands are also home to the critically endangered northern corroboree frogs as well as native rats, crustaceans and alpine tree frogs.
Listing the wetlands as endangered was made to protect native habitats, wildlife and the capital’s water supply, environment minister Mick Gentleman said on Thursday.
“We will now work to develop an action plan to engage with the New South Wales Government on cross-border management of Australia’s high country,” Mr Gentleman said.
“This will include discussing the risks posed by feral horses entering Namadgi National Park from Kosciuszko National Park due the NSW government’s decision to protect feral horses.”
He said fears of the impacts climate change could have on the wetlands also played a part in the decision, as increased temperatures and altered rainfall patterns could harm the “fragile” ecosystem.
The move to protect brumbies was spearheaded by NSW deputy premier John Barilaro, the state member for the Monaro electorate, which ranges from Queanbeyan to Jindabyne.