18 January 2020

Injured horses and destroyed huts - how Kosciuszko fared the fires

| Elka Wood
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Snowy Mountains highway

Snowy Mountains Highway. Photos: Michelle Brown.

Cooma resident, photographer and administrator to The Snowy Brumby Heritage Group, Michelle Brown, this week ventured on foot into Kosciuszko National Park, which burnt on New Year’s Eve.

“It was a massive shock, just driving along the park boundary. My heart dropped to my feet when I saw the devastation to our beloved park,” she shares.

Many are wondering how the park fared in the fire. Michelle’s photos tell the story.

“We confirmed that at least five of our precious Kosciuszko Huts are burnt. The landscape was charred, the scale was so enormous to comprehend,” she says. “Our first stop was Delanys Hut, which is my all-time favourite. I was gutted when I saw it was reduced to rubble.”

There are a total of 70 huts in Kosciuszko National Park, some historical and others built more recently to provide accommodation and shelter for visitors.

The remains of Delaneys Hut

The remains of historic Delaneys Hut.

“Although many people don’t even realise the huts are there, they are special to so many people who have sheltered there in winter storms.”

Sawyers Rest House was a favourite of many tourists, Michelle says, but it too was so burnt as to be unrecognisable.

“Some of these huts have burnt before and been rebuilt, but still, the lost history is so sad.”

Sawyers Hill

The Rest House at Sawyers Hill was another victim of the fire.

As a testament to how hot the fire was, one of the gas bottles attached to Wolgal Hut “exploded into a million pieces”.

“The fire had obviously burnt very hot in some places; it must have been ferocious.”

Wolgal hut

The Wolgal Hut was also reduced to rubble.

Pattersons Hut, which is privately owned, was a “beautiful hut”, according to Michelle, but all that remains after the fire is the tall brick chimney.

Michelle hopes that National Parks staff were able to save the visitors books kept in all the huts before the fire hit as they’re an important part of the history of the huts and show how valuable the structures are to locals and visitors.

Pattersons Hut

The fourth rest hut confirmed burnt – Pattersons.

“We kept on going to Mathews Hut and the Kiandra Courthouse, which were both reduced to rubble.”

Michelle reports that the Long Plain Hut was saved.

“It was partially wrapped in protective foil and a containment line had been made around it,” she says.

Long Plain Hut

Efforts were made to save Long Plain Hut, which still stands.

Checking on her beloved brumby mobs as she moved through the park, Michelle was able to see through her powerful lens that some of the horses had “burnt noses, presumably from attempting to graze on hot ground”.

She has heard that National Parks officials are moving through the parks, euthanising animals who were badly injured in the fire.

“I don’t care what kind of animal it is, no animal deserves to be in the line of fire or to suffer from painful burns afterwards,” Michelle says.

But there are large areas of the park which have not been burnt at all and Michelle says she remains positive for the future of the brumby mobs and for other animals.

Wild horses after the fire

Wild horses after the fire. Still smoky but there is green feed.

“I know how horses react to fire. They are usually pretty smart and get out of the way, and it’s encouraging to see green pick already growing through the black after only a week.”

The animals all have access to plenty of water, Michelle reports.

A Wallaby after the Kosciuszko fire

A wallaby after the Kosciuszko fire.

At her Cooma property, Michelle’s own horses are “on bare dirt”. She says that if the region gets the rain predicted this week, it will be like “all my birthdays and anniversaries have come at once!”

There’s no undoing the damage done by fire but at least, Michelle says, we can watch nature repair herself in amazement.

For more of Michelle’s photos, follow her on Facebook.

Original Article published by Elka Wood on About Regional.

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Capital Retro6:28 pm 25 Jan 20

“Why do you all blame BRUMBIES. You are so narrow minded. WHST ABOUT PIGS. LOTS UP IN KNP AND Deer. Wake up you silly narrow minded people.”

You forgot the goats and the trout.

rationalobserver5:35 pm 24 Jan 20

Hate to tell you all this, but the NP (before the fires) was far from the pristine environment that is portrayed on web sites and tourist spam.
Before we start hating on the brumbies, let’s revisit some first principles; is the park for conservation or recreation? If it’s conservation, then focus on the blackberries and other weeds which modify the landscape and disrupt native animal food supplies far more than introduced animals. If it’s for recreation, then decide what an acceptable number of horses are and allow cultural tourism such as trail rides and brumby watching.

Horses are an invasive species. They will cause even more damage to ty he fragile environs as it recovers. Time to bite the bullet and cull them

rationalobserver8:54 pm 25 Jan 20

Your fragile environs are well and truly toast mate. Zero conservation value. May as well subdivide them now.

Meanwhile, the rest of us who actually care about the national park were hoping this would at least put a good dent in the feral horse population, and help tone down their destruction of the park for a while.

Megan van der Velde8:43 pm 19 Jan 20

So sad. Such destruction. I know the brumbies are loved by enthusiasts and I certainly wish them no pain or suffering however, their destructive habits on our delicate landscapes in Kosi are now going to impact even more on an ecosystem that was not designed for them as their hooves crush and they compete with native wildlife for the few green shoots available.

rationalobserver8:55 pm 25 Jan 20

Stress not. Those green shoots are most probably black berries.

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