Brumby numbers down, but not enough for Barilaro

Edwina Mason 14 January 2021 22
Helicopter conducting wild horse survey in Kosciuszko National Park.

The Spring 2020 survey on the wild horse population was carried out in four survey blocks within Kosciuszko National Park in October and November 2020. Photo: NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

The release of the final report on a Spring 2020 survey of wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park has done little to subdue the squabble over how these contentious steeds should be managed.

Conservation groups are viewing the news as a green light to additional culling of the wild horses, while pro-brumby supporters and local landholders say the horse population has already reached sustainable levels.

The hard-fought recount of the wild horses has revealed a population drop of around 5000 since 2019, with results showing just more than 14,000 brumbies currently call Kosciuszko National Park home.

The new data comes after NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro pleaded repeatedly, in 2020, with NSW Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean for an urgent survey of the horses in the national park following the prolonged drought and unprecedented bushfire season.

The minister finally conceded in August, with the aerial survey completed by University of New England-based firm GE and SC Cairns Consulting in October and November 2020.

“The results of this survey show we were justified in our push for an urgent recount of the wild horses in the park,” said Mr Barilaro. “Results from the 2019 survey – that there were 19,000 horses in Kosciuszko National Park – were simply not reflective of what the community knew to be true.”

He said he is pleased to be finally dealing in facts, and the NSW Government can get on with finding the right balance between recognising the cultural and heritage significance of the iconic brumby and managing their environmental impact.

Mr Barilaro said he accepted the figure of 14,000 wild horses in the park is still too high, and that active management of their impact on the park’s alpine environment must continue.

“The NSW Government has always said we will remove brumbies from the park, and this is already being done using passive trapping and rehoming methods, and perhaps down the track with fertility control methods,” he said.

“I also understand that some won’t accept this figure of just over 14,000 wild horses in the park. I appreciate your concerns, but I’ve been assured these survey results are based on the world’s best practice and have been independently peer reviewed by the CSIRO and the Queensland Department of Agriculture.”

READ ALSO: NEWS ACT steps up surveillance after wild horses found inside Namadgi National Park

Mr Barilaro has also been forced to refute claims he has backed away from supporting the wild horses.

“Let me make this clear: I delivered the legislation that recognises our beautiful brumbies, no-one else did, and I’ve been hammered by both sides of the debate for years over it,” he said.

“Do not always believe the headlines. I’ve always maintained we need to find a balance for the brumbies and the environment, and I have always accepted that current numbers are high – as have many pro-brumby supporters – but we must find a humane way of managing this.”

Mr Barilaro also said he never agreed to 600 being the target number.

“Actually, quite the opposite,” he said. “The numbers I believe are sustainable in Kosciuszko National Park have always been around the 3000-4000 mark. That has not, and will not, change.”

The survey results will inform a new draft wild horse management plan expected to go on public exhibition in the first half of 2021.

The plan will also take into account advice provided by the community and scientific advisory panels in spelling out how horse populations could be controlled down to sustainable levels, while protecting the environment and recognising the wild brumby’s heritage value.

In 2020, more than 340 horses were removed from the park by passive trapping and rehoming. This interim program focusing on Nungar Plain, Cooleman Plain and Kiandra Plain will continue pending the finalisation of the new management plan.

Wild horse advocate Peter Cochran said he doesn’t accept that 14,000 horses are in Kosciuszko National Park and supports calls for an independent count.

“There are no horses in fragile alpine ecosystems – there are no horses in 90 per cent of Kosciuszko National Park,” he said. “The only area not burned on Kosciuszko National Park in 2020 was the area of greatest concentration of horses.”

Mr Cochran joins local landholders in suggesting the existing wild horse population is sustainable.

Reclaim Kosci conservation officer Candice Bartlett views Mr Barilaro’s comments as a change of heart, saying they echo the sentiments of the widely supported draft plan proposed in 2016 by former environment minister Mark Speakman.

“It was in June 2018 that Mr Barilaro pushed through the horse protection law, dumping the 2016 plan and overriding national park legislation,” she said. “He said his approach would see a reduction of horses in the park and protect sensitive areas.

“Every year we wait to see the scale of the problem grow and the damage to the park increase. Now that Mr Barilaro supports a science-based horse management plan, Reclaim Kosci looks forward to working constructively with the NSW Government on the rapid implementation of a new plan.”

Original Article published by Edwina Mason on About Regional.

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22 Responses to Brumby numbers down, but not enough for Barilaro
Chris Goodrum Chris Goodrum 8:51 pm 17 Jan 21

B is chasing votes! My opinion.

franky22 franky22 10:54 am 17 Jan 21

Can’t understand why the same protection isn’t afforded to wild pigs and the cute rabbits and foxes and of course to cane toads when they get this far south.

Barrie Ridgway Barrie Ridgway 10:33 am 17 Jan 21

Mr Barilaro talks about sustainable feral horse numbers. How about instead talking about the sustainable level of a pristine (once) and important cultural heritage of the ecological environment of the unique KNP?

If Mr Barilaro and his farming and horse trekking associates wish to see feral horses why not move them from KNP to the farms such as that owned by Mt Cochrane?

The tragedy is that Mr Barilaro's legislation in the NSW parliament has enshrined in legislation the continuing degradation of unique High Country KNP by protecting feral horses in KNP. Cultural heritage Baloney. A myth based on the romantic lines of a poem. What about the protection of the true cultural heritage - that of the ecological environment of a world famous national park?

Duncan Whiterod Duncan Whiterod 7:14 am 17 Jan 21

There is no balance. The ideal is 0 brumbies in the wild. Cull, remove, sterilise.

    Dot Willcoxson Dot Willcoxson 7:03 pm 17 Jan 21

    Duncan Whiterod pigs and deer too.

    Doddy Goile Doddy Goile 9:47 pm 17 Jan 21

    Duncan Whiterod rabbit cats toads foxes dont forget them

    Dot Willcoxson Dot Willcoxson 3:02 pm 18 Jan 21

    Di Hunter and the rubbish they leave behind.

Stephen Saunders Stephen Saunders 2:46 am 17 Jan 21

The farce goes on and on and on. There’s only one way to eradicate feral horses, and NSW rejects that out of hand. Therefore, the only possible outcome is, horses win, habitat loses. Barilaro is a hypocrite.

Martin Budden Martin Budden 6:11 pm 16 Jan 21

Everyone hates feral cats, feral rabbits, feral foxes, feral cane toads, but because of one old poem many people love feral horses.

    Paul Haesler Paul Haesler 6:24 pm 16 Jan 21

    Martin Budden I think the Darryl Braithwaite song also contributed.

    Martin Budden Martin Budden 7:57 pm 16 Jan 21

    Paul Haesler well in that case I concede. Can't argue with Darryl.

    Shane Jasprizza Shane Jasprizza 9:17 pm 16 Jan 21

    Martin don’t forget feral fish. Unless you’re a trout; the brumby of the waterways 🤷‍♂️

    Jude May Jude May 11:31 pm 16 Jan 21

    Shane Jasprizza at least trout taste good? Though I'm sure all that organic horse meat walking around up there would make some great dog food.

    Shane Jasprizza Shane Jasprizza 11:43 pm 16 Jan 21

    So do Redfin. Carp are also one of the most consumed fish in the world.

    Paul Monger Paul Monger 7:43 pm 17 Jan 21

    Shane Jasprizza Trout were introduced a long,long time ago after several failed attempts.

    Shane Jasprizza Shane Jasprizza 7:45 pm 17 Jan 21

    Paul “introduced” being the key word.

    Di Hunter Di Hunter 2:32 pm 18 Jan 21

    Martin Budden fact though is that horses keep the fire fuel down, start obliterating them and start increasing massive fires,

    They do far less damage than any human and totally a lot less than any govt and land developer

    But hey... good excuse to get rid of them.... cos people like you don’t like them

    Jackie Hattingh Jackie Hattingh 3:47 pm 18 Jan 21

    On the other hand they trample and destroy habitat, causing erosion and water run off - drier = fires

    Ross Jet Mccabe Ross Jet Mccabe 3:49 pm 18 Jan 21

    Paul Monger That was probably the only good thing that they have introduced.

    Di Hunter Di Hunter 6:23 pm 18 Jan 21

    Jackie Hattingh it’s actually proven that they don’t and it is also proven that they are not in the great a numbers as the anti brumbies like to put out especially the morons that say they breed twice a year!!

    The brumbies have been up there a bloody long time and there has been no destruction of habitat except by wild pigs, cats dogs and humans

    Ben Keaney Ben Keaney 9:43 pm 18 Jan 21

    Di exactly how do brumbies keep the fuel load down? Do they eat fine forest fuels such as sticks and leaves?

    Or Perhaps its the tracks they use? The ones that drain bogs, and dry the peat so it can burn?

    Ben Keaney Ben Keaney 9:49 pm 18 Jan 21

    Also if they are not in the numbers that the anti-brumbies say, what do you think a maximum brumby population should be? Surely there is a limit to carrying capacity for happy and healthy horses in Kozi?

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