Heritage Heresy

by Matt McClelland

A bushwalking club met all those needs.
by Banjo Paterson

A new bill in NSW raises the debate as to how best we respect the heritage of this great land. Is it wise to have a law that protects of a population of feral animals in a National Heritage listed national park? Would such a law undermine the natural and indigenous heritage? Would such a law actually honour the heritage of the horses?

Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Bill 2018 says it aims “to recognise the heritage value of sustainable wild horse populations within parts of Kosciuszko National Park and to protect that heritage.” The basic gist of the legislation will be to protect a population of horses in the national park at levels that will allow visitors to interact with them.

The legislation was tabled on 23 May 2018 just a month after the NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee issued a call to start the ball rolling on listing of habitat degradation and loss by feral horses as a key threatening process under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016. The have found that hoses in the Kosciuszko National Park have an adverse effect through habitat destruction for the Northern Corroboree Frog (critically endangered), Southern Corroboree Frog (critically endangered), Guthega Skink (endangered), Alpine She-oak Skink (endangered) and more.

Horse mustering within the Pilot Wilderness

So what will this legislation mean?

  • Creation of a Wild Horse Community Advisory Panel to provide advice on the management of a sustainable wild horse populations within Kosciuszko National Park.
  • The development of a “wild horse heritage management plan” for Kosciuszko National Park. This plan is to identify the heritage value of sustainable wild horse populations within the park. The legislation mentions “ensuring other environmental values” will still be protected, but the wording suggests to me that some the native ecosystem values will be compromised.
    It is also intended that the legislation will prevent that culling of feral horses within the park, meaning that horse populations can only be controlled by non-lethal in park methods. Research suggests in park culling is among the most humane methods in minimising horse trauma. The legislation does not provide funding for the much more expensive and traumatic mustering and relocation techniques.

What are other people saying?
“After eight years of ignoring the growing population and the damage the horses are doing to the Park, it is clear that this bill will make the problem worse, not better.”
Penny Sharpe, Shadow Environment Minister

“The decision is an international embarrassment and another nail in the coffin for NSW national parks …”
NPA Chief Executive Officer, Alix Goodwin

“We acknowledge the cultural and tourism value of the wild horses, but we must also acknowledge the science that tells us of the damage being caused. Damage that is threatening the unique ecosystem of the park – there is simply too much at stake to risk the benefits the park brings to our region for tourism and employment.”
Country Labor candidate for Monaro Bryce Wilson

“This bill represents the greatest conservation threat in 75 years to one of the great national parks of Australia and the world, and a threat to one of the most sensitive, important and economically valuable water catchments of Australia. It would lead to destruction of Kosciuszko National Park as we know it today.”
(Hon) Associate Professor, Fener School, ANU, Dr Graeme Worboys

Watch this drone footage from Cowombat Flat at the headwaters of the Murray River. The fenced areas are grazing exclusion enclosures, and the impact of feral horses is clear. You can even see just around the inside the enclosed areas where horses reach over and graze.

There was an article about Feral horse in BWA August 2016.

You can also read more the thread Horses and heritage on Bushwalk.com forum.

Creek damaged by feral horses on the Australian Alps Walking Track, Kosciuszko National Park

What to do?
No matter where you stand on this issue I urge you to read this proposed letter and consider writing to your local state MP. I wrote a letter and got an immediate personal response. The response was not what I wanted, but democracy is about having the people voice heard.

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