Adaminaby horse trek owner and fierce brumby advocate Peter Cochran has backed the new draft wild horse management plan for Kosciuszko National Park, saying it can work if there’s co-operation from those across the brumby divide, together with the bureaucracy and the government.
After year of waiting, the government last week released the wild horse plan, which restricts brumbies to certain areas and calls for a number of 3000 horses in the park by 2027.
Mr Cochran is credited by some with being the architect of a key government bill put forward by John Barilaro and passed in 2016 which gave the horses protection by recognising their cultural significance.
The legislation, the Wild Horse Heritage Bill, had largely achieved its aims, he said.
“It’s there to do three or four things. Firstly to acknowledge the cultural significance of the horses, and secondly to give them a home,” Mr Cochran said.
“Thirdly, to develop a new management plan. It’s taken a while, but now we’ve started the final consultation process to get that.
“Fourthly, the legislation is there to disperse some of the animosity between different groups about how the horses have been managed. The Plan of Management has the potential to do that.”
He is nonetheless critical that it’s taken so long to get to this point and argues it’s allowed festering disputes from anti-brumby and pro-brumby groups to continue.
“It’s taken three years to get to this point and the ongoing disputes that have evolved in the absence of a plan have been damaging to communities,” he said.
“It’s also allowed the NPWS to trap an unreasonable number of brumbies. Hopefully Matt Keen does a better job as treasurer than he has with this – if it takes him three years to deliver a budget we have a problem.
“It’s erased the confidence of people in the process.”
While he argues the numbers are at the “periphery” of the plan, they’ve been a constant source of debate and Mr Cochran is adamant there’s not 14,000 horses in the KNP, as estimated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Instead, he reckons there’s 2,000 at the most, saying a count using thermal imaging had identified about 1400 horses.
“Even if you double that, it’s only about 3000, and since then they’ve taken out 800 or 900,” he said.
He’s hopeful that new Nationals leader Paul Toole will continue along Mr Barilaro’s path when it comes to brumbies. He said he has little faith in federal environment minister Sussan Ley, who has argued that horse numbers need to be reduced to protect the environment.
“The hypocrisy of this woman,” he said of Ms Ley. “Flying over the brumbies up there, claiming they’re causing massive damage, then approving Snowy 2.0. It’s beyond belief.”
While he doesn’t agree with everything in the plan, he wants it to work and hopes others show the same goodwill.
“Some elements I don’t think will work,” he said, noting a decision to delegate where horses remain will be difficult to implement.
“Horses will go where the feed and water is,” he said. “They should leave the horses where they are and monitor and control numbers.”
Wagga MP Joe McGirr said the plan must consider the complex needs of the Kosciuszko National Park.
“As I have said previously we must make sure that populations of feral horses do not destroy the park,” Dr McGirr said.
“It is an issue that many in the community feel strongly about.
“I encourage everyone with an interest in this issue to make sure they read the report and provide their comments. I welcome comment and feedback to my office as I review the plan.”