Management of wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park appears to be in tatters with both environmentalists and brumby supporter groups saying they are deeply concerned there has been no removal of brumbies in more than 18 months.
The NSW Government introduced a brumby protection bill last year that heritage listed brumbies but also outlined a management system of committees to preserve sensitive areas of the park. But the committee process has hit a wall with environmentalists refusing to be part of the process.
Meantime, brumby numbers are increasing. In a normal year the Kosciuszko brumby population increases by 13-20 per cent. If the NSW National Parks 2016 figure of 6000 was taken as close to the mark, that would mean there would be close to 1000 extra brumbies in the park. Brumby groups dispute the figure, saying the true population sits at around 3500. They also say with the drought, the growth in numbers is probably below 10 per cent.
While environmental alliances have called for the total removal of brumbies, the Australian Brumby Alliance says the heritage worth of the brumbies must be protected, as it is by NSW law, and that sensible management practices need to be adopted so that sensitive areas of the park are not damaged.
The process of management has also been upset with the upcoming NSW election just months away, and the NSW Labor opposition promising to repeal the brumby heritage laws (that were pushed by Deputy Premier john Barilaro, who is also member for Monaro) and seek removal of brumbies down to just 600 head.
ABA president Jill Pickering said it was a “worry’ that no removal of brumbies had taken place for over a year. She said this also played into the hands of people who wanted brumbies totally removed from the park. “I have written several letters asking that the committee process can start so we can start managing the population, but have received no reply,” Mrs Pickering said.
The Land understands a new Wild Horse Project Officer has been appointed to oversee management of brumbies in Kosciuszko – but there is no program to oversee.
“A Community Advisory Panel will provide advice to the Environment Minister for matters relating to the identification of the heritage value and management of sustainable wild horse populations within parts of KNP and to prepare a draft KNP wild horse management plan.
“A Scientific Advisory Panel will provide scientific and technical advice to the Office of Environment and Heritage to inform the draft KNP wild horse heritage management plan. Nominations for the Wild Horse Community and Scientific Advisory Panels closed 21-Dec-2018 and appointments are now being finalised.
“The ABA reaffirms that while finding a balance between protecting Wild Horse heritage values and environmental values of the park is challenging, it is possible
“Too many horses is not good.”
Environmental groups have refused to be part of the committee. Also late last year the Office of Environment and Heritage through the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, declared wild horses (equus caballus) to be a threatening species in the park.
A source confirmed that there had been no removal of brumbies from Kosciusko since August 2017.
Invasive Species Council chief executive Andrew Cox said it was deeply concerning that there had been no management of the brumby population since August 2107.
“There has been no removal of horse since 2017 and the problem is only getting worse,” Mr Cox said. “The deputy premier promised horses would continue to be removed, but from certain areas no horses have been removed for between 18 months and three years.
“Horses are now outcompeting native animals in the park. They’d have to remove 1000 a year just to stabilise the population.”
The Council wants total removal of brumbies to protect the world-classified national park, but understands this is technically impossible.
Mr Cox said the range of wild horses in the park was expanding with horse dung found in the Mt Kosciuszko summit area for the first time in many years. The horse are believed to have come from the western side of the summit.
He said the thorough clearing out of feral horses recently at the Singleton Army Base, controlled by the Commonwealth, showed aerial culling should be put back on the agenda for feral horses in NSW. A team known as FAAST culled about 150 brumbies. He said aerial culling was more humane than trapping as wild horses often hurt themselves when trapped. The RSPCA also oversaw FAAST operations.
He said environmental groups and scientists did not want anything to do with the NSW Government wild horse management committee as the whole process was “morally bankrupt” because brumbies should not be protected. But he said the government was not being proactive on management in the meantime.
A response was being sought from National Parks and Mr Barilaro’s office.