Wild horse numbers in the Kosciuszko National Park will be reduced to 3000 by 2027 under a long-awaited draft plan for the management of the horses in the park released for public comment.
Across the Park, the plan provides for three broad zones:
· Areas in which wild horses will continue to occupy – 32% of the Park
· Areas from which wild horses will be removed – 21% of the Park
· Areas which are currently free of horses and which will be kept free – 47% of the Park
Areas where horses will remain include around Long Plain, Currango and Tantangara, but horses will be removed in the park to the north and east of those areas.
The total population of wild horses across the wild horse retention management areas will be reduced to 3000 horses by June 30, 2027, the plan states. On the basis of available and current information, this target will enable wild horse heritage values to be protected, the plan states.
Recent counts have put the number of brumbies at about 14,000.
Control methods include ground shooting, in areas of the park that have been closed, as well as shooting in trap yards.
Horses will also continue to be rehomed outside the park, or sent to the abattoir or knackery.
Aerial shooting has been ruled out as an option.
Environment Minister Matt Kean said the draft plan strikes the right balance between protecting the fragile alpine ecosystems and recognising the cultural heritage values of the wild horses.
The areas in which horses may continue to occur are those areas with the strongest links to wild horse heritage values and are areas with links to historic pastoralism, brumby running and include wild horses derived from historic pastoral populations, such as the Kiandra greys.
“Everybody cares about Kosciusko National Park, it is a very special place for all of us,” Mr Kean said.
“I recognise there are very strong and diverse views on this issue but at the heart of these views is a common desire to sustainably manage the Park for the future.
“For too long we have been deadlocked on this issue and unable to find a way forward, this has served no one’s interest, least of all the environment.
“This draft plan provides protections for one of the nation’s most precious environments and all of the animals that call it home, but more importantly it provides that much needed way forward.
“While we need to ensure our threatened and endangered native wildlife is protected we need to also recognise the genuine affection and cultural values many people attach to these horses.
“With genuine input from from the broadest cross section of interested parties, this plan provides a clear direction for the future of Kosciuszko National Park.”
The removal and exclusion of wild horses from designated areas, and the reduction in the overall population, will provide effective protection from the impacts of wild horses for many threatened species, he said.
These include the Northern and Southern Corroboree Frogs, the Smoky Mouse and the Broad-toothed Rat as well as a suite of important alpine and sub-alpine ecosystems.
Animal welfare, in line with the highest national standards, will remain the priority when deciding what animal management technique is employed.
No passive trapping will occur while the plan is on exhibition for public comment.
Annual surveys of the wild horse population will help monitor progress toward the targets in the Plan.
The draft Plan was prepared by the National Parks and Wildlife Service with advice from the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Community and Scientific Advisory Panels, as well as advice from Aboriginal stakeholders.
The Invasive Species Council notes the draft plan aims to increase the areas of Kosciuszko free of feral horses from 47 per cent to 68 per cent.
“Areas in the north, west and around the alpine regions will have horses entirely removed,” Invasive Species Council conservation director James Trezise said today.
“Unfortunately, the plan aims to leave 3000 horses trampling a third of the park which will lock in long-term environmental damage for these areas.
“The Long Plain, Currango Plain and Snowy Plains in the north and Byadbo, Snowy River and Pilot areas in the south will have to suffer permanent horse populations.
“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.
“In an important breakthrough, the draft plan provides for ground shooting, one of the most effective and humane options for feral horse control.
“But the plan falls short in rejecting the most effective control method – aerial shooting – necessary 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 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.
The draft plan is open for public comment until Tuesday, 2 November 2021. To view the plan and make a submission visit: www.environment.nsw.gov.au/get- involved/have-your-say