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The ‘Impacts and Management of Feral Horses in the Australian Alps’ Report

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

In February of 2023 an inquiry was conducted into the impacts and management of feral horses in the Australian Alps. The inquiry received almost 800 public submissions with the committee conducting two public hearings in August and September of 2023.

A herd of feral horses (also referred to as brumby's), with the text "Senate Report into Feral Horses" foregrounded.

In October of 2023, a final report was released which included 14 recommendations, one of which was for the NSW government to update the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan to allow aerial shooting to control feral horse populations.

The NSW Wild Horse Heritage Act

The final report included many direct quotes from submission providers criticising the NSW WIld Horse Heritage Act in its current form.

For example The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA), in speaking to the committee, claimed that the Wild Horse Heritage Act provides a “disproportionate weight” to feral horses over ‘obligations to protect native habitats, fauna and flora within the park’.”

The AVA also questioned if the Act can serve its objectives in its current form:

“The objectives of the plan now are essentially to reduce environmental damage to an acceptable level and to preserve the heritage value of sustainable wild horse populations, while ensuring that the environmental values of the park are maintained. Unfortunately, there is doubt that these two objectives can be achieved simultaneously.”

Professor Don Driscoll from Deakin University also criticised the Wild Horse Heritage Act stating that the act itself is the “biggest barrier to implementing a coordinated approach to feral horse management in the alps.”

Professor Michael Archer from the Australian Academy of Science agreed with Prof. Driscoll and added that the act stands out “like a sore thumb.”

Ian Pulsford, a connectivity conservation and protected area specialist, went even further, claiming that the Wild Horse Heritage Act is “the single greatest current threat to the National Heritage values of KNP” outside of climate change.

Furthermore, Mr. Pulsford highlighted the differences between NSW’s and Federal legislation, stating that the NSW Act is in contradiction to Commonwealth purposes:

“[The NSW Wild Horse Heritage Act] is fundamentally contradictory to the intent and purpose of the establishment and management of the Australian Alps national parks, and works in opposition to the Commonwealth responsibilities for the protection of National Heritage listed places and the conservation of threatened and endangered ecological communities and Species.

Treatment of National Park Staff

The inquiry also heard submissions related to the treatment of National Park rangers and employees, including details of threats of abuse and violence.

For example the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), having collected input from anonymous park rangers, raised concerns over the level of abuse suffered, both to the rangers themselves and their families, at the hands of pro-brumby activists. They detailed instances of professional shooters contracted for brumby culling having been “outed” on social media, as well as being abused, harassed, stalked and threatened online.

Members of the CPSU have also needed to implement extra security behaviours at their homes. This extra security came in the form of lying to associates, friends and family about their jobs, keeping a “low profile” and “retreating from other community roles.”

A former park ranger, Kim de Govrik, also detailed how the children of park staff can “get bullied at school” and “can be abused in the street, even if they are just walking with someone in uniform’.

The Public Service Association of NSW (PSA NSW) also reported to the committee that:

“...threats have included statements and images posted on social media; threats of violence to individual staff and the threat to firebomb the Jindabyne Visitor Centre and NPWS office and all staff therein.”

Sources & Further Reading

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