8 June 2023

Community outrage at wild horse carcasses in KNP met with silence

| Edwina Mason
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Wild horses left to rot on the Snowy Plains in Kosciuszko National Park. Image: Supplied.

The man who’d had enough of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service’s silence on brumby carcasses in Kosciuszko National Park said dumping a horse’s head at the department’s Jindabyne office was intended to make a point.

Rocky Harvey took the head of one of the 67 brumbies recently shot and left to rot on Snowy Plains and dropped it off at the NPWS office, incurring himself a $500 offensive behaviour fine.

But Mr Harvey considered the authority’s failure to properly dispose of the carcasses offensive.

He’s received more positive than negative feedback for his actions, which he felt summed up the general public’s opinion of the NPWS’s actions.

“I don’t have an issue with brumby numbers, but it’s the way they go about things,” he said. “If I had 60-odd carcasses rotting on my land, I’d be crucified.”

“They (NPWS) have no social licence to do what they have done. It’s the arrogance of the NPWS which is now leading to this backlash. It’s just crazy.”

READ MORE Grisly discovery of 67 wild horses shot in Kosciuszko National Park

Acting Environment and Heritage Coordinator-General Atticus Fleming, who oversees the NPWS, defended the department’s actions, saying it was natural for carcasses to be in the park. Refuting fears around scavenger activity, he said NPWS had increased wild dog baiting by six times the usual volume.

Lisa Rowbotham, whose land adjoins Snowy Plains, said she received no notification of the ground shooting cull.

“I’ve done some research and found the NPWS has an 18-point neighbour relations policy,” Ms Rowbotham said. “They have not followed even one of those points.

“We’ve always been pretty tolerant of NPWS as a neighbour, but now it’s game on,” she said.

Combined with unauthorised shooters in the area, she’s concerned for her livestock and has moved her horses away from the area, for fear of them being shot too.

Ms Rowbotham repudiated Mr Fleming’s claims carcasses would not attract pigs or dogs, saying “the dogs have already moved in”. Local trappers confirmed wild dogs are very active.

“The brumby debate is a whole other thing,” she said. “We like having brumbies there because they’re our buffer zone. We’ve already nearly been burnt out three times and if horses aren’t there, that country will scrub up right to the fence and there goes our buffer.”

She concurs with former MP Peter Cochran, who has called for a Royal Commission into the NPWS activities.

“The whole thing is, no one is blaming local staff. These decisions are made somewhere else, but we don’t have access to policymakers higher up. It’s beyond frustrating,” she said.

READ ALSO Minister sticks to guns in rejecting claims brumbies were inhumanely shot during Snowy Plain cull

While the government plans to cull 15,000 wild horses within five years, biosecurity concerns are playing second fiddle to impacts on groundwater and waterways.

Footage of decomposing remains downriver from Lake Jindabyne was captured in September 2022 by Ian and Michelle Brown of Snowy Brumby Photography Adventures.

“You can see that whole area is a water catchment area, you can see all the little streams and creeks in pristine condition feed the Eucumbene River, but NPWS have left 12 horses there to rot. Last week they stated it’s against their management practices and policy to leave dead horses near water, yet this whole area is catchment,” Mr Brown said.

He contacted the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) twice to report potentially polluted waters in Kosciuszko National Park. “They said they were interested so I sent them what I had but I never heard back from them.”

NSW EPA said Mr Brown’s reports were not a matter for them and had referred them to the NPWS in October 2022.

The NPWS told Region there are no horse carcasses in waterways.

“The NSW NPWS is under a legal obligation to reduce the population of wild horses under the Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan,” a spokesperson said.

The NSW Department of Primary Industry (DPI) states under the Animal Biosecurity and Welfare Strategic Plan (2021) that “improper carcass disposal can have significant impacts on environmental, human and animal health”, noting the potential for contamination.

It further emphasises the importance of careful planning and management of disposal by owners to ensure the safety of the community, other stock and the environment, and minimising the risk of disease.

NSW DPI told Region the matter of carcass disposal sat with the Office of Environment and Heritage. The 2021 Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan says the disposal of carcasses presents logistical challenges, including numbers, access, available resources and environmental constraints.

It notes a range of management options, to be considered on a case-by-case basis with site-specific requirements.

Despite repeated requests for specifics, none were provided by NPWS or Environment Minister Penny Sharpe.

The minister wouldn’t confirm if the department had consulted with the DPI on methods of carcass disposal to prevent contamination of water (ground and waterways) and to ensure the safety of the community, other stock, the environment and disease spread.

No assurances have been offered by the minister on the safety of users, visitors and KNP neighbours as culling operations continue.

Original Article published by Edwina Mason on About Regional.

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Garron Hutchinson8:54 am 11 Jun 23

If you happen to be a animal in OZ especially native your headed for extinction,if your feral continue to kill our native animals.I have never seen a horse kill anything.As for the shooters (wonderful people)

The title of this article is all about the NPWS meeting the protests with silence but the text of the article shows that to be untrue, where it says that the head of NPWS, Atticus Fleming, ‘defended the department’s actions, saying it was natural for carcasses to be in the park. Refuting fears around scavenger activity, he said NPWS had increased wild dog baiting by six times the usual volume.’ Couldn’t a more honest title be found that was still newsworthy?

What about ‘Horse carcasses outrage brumby activists: NPWS unmoved’?
or ‘NPWS unmoved by horse head delivered to its office’? etc

In articles like this, we need more frequent reminders of three things:

1) that the NPWS is legally bound to do this ground shooting, by the statutory Kosciuszko NP Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan which was prepared at Barilaro’s insistence, under the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act (2018) which Barilaro created with the help of Peter Cochran, a former National Party MP who later joined Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party. The horse plan requires the feral horse population in KNP to be reduced to 3,000 by 30/6/27 and specifies in detail how it must be done, as well as methods that may not be used.

2) The horse plan resulted from a massive and unprecedented exercise in democracy with several advisory committees specialising on various aspects, many thousands of individual public submissions on a draft plan, and detailed involvement of no less than three NSW Cabinet Ministers. To give us clues about what the important issues might be, as well as the content in the draft plan, we had seen decades of low level horse culling. We all had our chance to make suggestions about whatever mattered to us, such as things like carcasses (mentioned in my submission for example). Of course we did not all get everything we asked for, but now it is time to shut up and let the NPWS do its job until 30/6/27.

3)The core agenda in all this, for the leading brumby activists, is a return to the era of high country grazing (aka snow lease grazing) that ended 60-70 years ago to save the mountains from extreme damage, with many millions of dollars of restoration work carried out by the Soil Con Service in the 1960s. The high country grazing practices were legendary among an older generation, and are fondly thought of by many of the current generation of Monaro landholders, some of whom deeply resent that the area is now a national park. Irrational and unrealistic as it may appear to you and me, some of the key brumby people think that if they win the protection of the feral horses in KNP, it will be a means to help them return Kosciuszko NP to a time when a small number of pastoralists exploited our high country for their profit, irrespective of the cost to biodiversity, soils, water quality, and recreational amenity.

Remember these things, and have a grain of salt handy when you hear protests about carcasses, and protests that the shooters are a danger to park users, and protests that the shooting has caused horses to suffer for hours, and so forth.

So what?

They’re a feral animal that’s completely out of control and has been absolutely destroying our alpine country. It is right and good that they’re being humanely culled.

Save the outrage for things worth that are actually worth being outraged about.

Also, why is the media giving these feral horse extremists publicity in the first place?

Sounds like concocted outrage by those opposing the culls. The majority of people support culling these invasive pests. The carcasses will decompose soon enough.

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