Clearer strategies and planning, and an explanation of the reasoning behind their decision to reduce the wild horse population only to 3000, were some of the central issues raised in the ACT’s submission to the NSW Government’s draft Kosciuszko National Park wild horse heritage management plan.
With the wild horse population growing at 20 per cent a year, the ACT estimates around 3000 to 4000 wild horses would need to be removed every year merely to keep the population at current levels.
Last year the population was estimated to be in the mid-14,000s.
Considering the Kosciuszko National Park is covered in snow for half the year, the submission suggests they would be left with six months of the year suitable for culling. The ACT estimates 200 horses a week for six years would need to be removed to meet their population target of 3000 by June 2027.
The NSW plan was to steer clear of the “aerial control” method. The ACT Government suggested that adopting other methods would make it difficult to cull 200 horses a week and spoke to the benefits of aerial control over ground-based methods.
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The submission also requested clarity as to why the 3000 population figure was selected. The ACT noted that “feral horses pose an unacceptable risk to fragile natural environmental values” in the Kosciuszko National Park and the surrounding Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves.
They also revealed concerns regarding the future of wild horse management after the June 2027 deadline, particularly, what will be done with identified “retention areas”.
Minister for Land Management Mick Gentleman said he was glad NSW was moving on from the 2018 Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act and hoped this was the beginning of a collaborative relationship between the ACT, NSW and Victoria in addressing the wild horse issue.
“Just as Mr Barilaro has been consigned to history, so too must his Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018. The new Liberal Government in New South Wales must repeal this act quickly. Matt Kean has reduced some feral horses and needs to be free to reduce these numbers dramatically. Feral horses don’t belong in national parks,” said Mr Gentleman.
“NSW needs to align its approach to the ACT to ensure a consistent approach across this important ecosystem. Our zero-tolerance policy on feral horses is paramount in managing the negative impacts of invasive animals within our important conservation areas like Namadgi National Park.”
Minister for Environment Rebecca Vassarotti described a collaborative approach as “crucial” in reaching effective outcomes and stressed the importance of the issue for the region’s environment.
“Horses in the Australian Alps are a significant threat to both biodiversity and sensitive subalpine wetlands in Namadgi. They cause damage to our environment, including trampling and pugging sensitive bog and fen environments and eating native plants,” said Ms Vassarotti.
“These impacts then flow onto our native wildlife and habitats. Recent research in the alps has shown that these habitat changes are greatly affecting the homes of threatened native species like the Northern Corroboree Frog and the Alpine Water Skink.”