National Parks Horse Plan Full of Holes
The NSW Government’s draft Kosciuszko feral horse plan has been released with serious holes and double standards.
The plan has promised a significant reduction in feral horse numbers; however, they have ruled out using the most efficient culling techniques and allowed for areas where horses can continue to roam, causing significant damage.
The feral horses in the park have been recognised as having heritage value however, this has not flowed onto any of the other introduced species to the parks across NSW.
They have ruled out using aerial culling as they believe it could result in the government losing its social licence to remove feral horses from the park.The Guardian reported "deputy premier, John Barilaro, who introduced the legislation that vetoed culling three years ago, said the draft was a significant step forward".
“When I introduced the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018 to NSW Parliament I envisaged finding a balance between preserving the sensitive areas of the park and letting our heritage horses roam free in areas environmentally suited for them,” he said.
“I am confident that this draft plan achieves that.”
But the Invasive Species Council said under the proposal, important areas of the park – including the Long Plain, Currango Plain and Snowy Plains in the north, and the Byadbo, Snowy River and Pilot areas in the south – would have to suffer with permanent horse populations.
“Unfortunately, the plan aims to leave 3,000 horses trampling a third of the park, which will lock in long-term environmental damage for these areas.”
Deirdre Slattery, an educator and co-author of the book Kosciuszko: A Great National Park, said three years of division had led to a polarised debate in which an invasive species had “become a major symbol of national pride and heritage”.
She said the draft plan did not do enough to address the problems horses were causing for vulnerable ecosystems and the map carving the park into areas where horses would be removed, retained or prevented was a version of what was happening on the ground already.
“That map is like a sleight of hand,” she said.
“It’s essentially the distribution of horses as they already occur in the park – it’s what is already there now, just a reduced version.
James Trezise Invasive Species Council conservation director said “We can have the current number of 14,000 feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park, or we can have healthy ecosystems and recovering native wildlife but we can’t have both.
"The proposal for ground shooting was an important breakthrough but the plan fell short by rejecting aerial shooting, the most effective control method in rugged parts of Kosciuszko".
“Feral horses damage sensitive ecosystems and harm unique wildlife in Kosciuszko. They are a danger to motorists and a financial burden to NSW taxpayers.
“Trapping and rehoming horses has proven to be inadequate for feral horse control unless accompanied by other control measures.
“The real test will be whether the NSW Government can finally deliver a plan to reduce horses in Kosciuszko. Time is running out for the Alps and our Australian wildlife,” Mr Trezise said.
The plan is the result of controversial legislation introduced in June 2018 that overrode the Kosciuszko National Park Plan of Management and abandoned an earlier draft horse plan that had widespread support.
Mr Trezise said, “The community has been waiting for this plan since 2014. It has gone through the prolonged process John Barilaro legislated. Now it’s time to act.
“We appreciate that there is a lot of emotion when it comes to horses in Kosciuszko. But failure to act will consign native Australian wildlife and our natural and Indigenous heritage to a grim future.”
It will be interesting to see if deer get the same pardon in areas they have inhabited longer than horses. These same deer in controlled numbers also hold significant heritage value to many people. Rusa of the Royal National Park is the perfect example.