On Friday 19 April 2019 Australia celebrates the 75th anniversary of one of its most cherished and important national parks, Kosciuszko National Park. The challenges faced at the time of its creation from hard-hooved animals were just as great as they are becoming today.
“At a time we should be celebrating Kosciuszko National Park’s 75th anniversary, the area remains mired in a mucky debate about hard-hooved animals,” Reclaim Kosci campaign coordinator Richard Swain said today.
“The park was created in 1944 by visionary Labor Premier Sir William McKell, who was compelled to act after witnessing what he described as ‘one of Australia’s greatest tragedies’ on a 10-day inspection of the damage from unregulated stock grazing.
“With the park’s creation on 19 April 1944, cattle and sheep grazing was removed from the highest peaks and over decades the eroded mountainsides restored. Today Kosciuszko National Park is an incredible natural cathedral that draws more than a million people a year who want to experience its raw beauty.
“Kosciuszko National Park and the Australian Alps catchments help deliver almost a third of the Murray Darling Basin’s annual water yield.
“This National Heritage listed place is home to ancient glacial landscapes and is rich in alpine wildflowers and native animals found nowhere else on Earth. Some of Australia’s most threatened native animals are found in Kosciuszko National Park, including the critically endangered mountain pygmy-possum and southern corroboree frog, the broad-toothed mouse, listed as vulnerable, and the alpine she-oak skink, which only exists in a very small area within the park.
“Australia should be coming together as a nation today to celebrate this extraordinary landscape, but instead we are stuck in a debate that allows feral horse numbers to grow and feral horse damage to continue to trash the park.
“If unresolved, the impacts of feral horses could surpass the disastrous impacts of cattle grazing prior to the park’s formation,” Mr Swain said.
Australian National University protected area specialist Dr Graeme Worboys has celebrated the 75th anniversary in a piece published on John Menadue’s website Pearls and Irritations.
In it he writes:
“The 75th anniversary of the park should have been a celebration of catchment recovery and the benefits of professional conservation management by generations of park managers.
“Instead, high mountain wetlands, the headwaters of the Murray, Murrumbidgee and Snowy Rivers and native Australian species habitats are all being impacted by feral horses.”
Reclaim Kosci campaign coordinator Richard Swain said Australia has a clear choice about how it manages Kosciuszko National Park for future generations.
“At this time to mark the formation of one of Australia’s most significant national parks, we have a clear choice.
“Do we allow feral horse damage to spiral out of control and irreparably damage the values of Kosciuszko National Park? Or do our leaders again rise to the occasion and make the decisions that future generations expect them to make?”
Kosciuszko under threat
Kosciuszko National Park is home to many threatened native species and ecological communities likely to suffer from feral horse disturbance.
In late November 2018 the NSW Scientific Committee listed ‘Degradation and loss by Feral Horses (brumbies, wild horses), Equus caballus’ as a key threatening process under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act.
At risk are:
- 23 threatened native plant species.
- 11 native animal species.
- 5 ecological communities.