Yesterday, internal tensions between NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro and environment minister Matt Kean spilt over into the NSW Parliament during a fiery debate on whether to accept a 12,300 signature petition demanding a repeal of the controversial Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act.
In an extraordinary outburst, John Barilaro yelled at the packed public gallery audience, attacking Reclaim Kosci campaign supporters and indigenous Snowy Mountains local and Invasive Species Council Ambassador volunteer Richard Swain.
In a wildly inaccurate attack he stated “It is clear that in the general election the issue of the repeal of the brumby bill was perpetrated and campaigned on by people such as Richard Swain and a group from inner‑city Sydney, Reclaim Kosci, that were paid to campaign against me.”
Whilst the Liberal government did not support the petition, environment minister Matt Kean took a strong stance, stating, “One of the biggest threats to our national parks is feral pests: feral cats, feral dogs, feral rabbits, and let us call them for what they are, not brumbies, feral horses.”
Andrew Cox, CEO of the Invasive Species Council said, “The escalating war between Minister Kean and the Deputy Premier over protecting the environment was on public display.”
“This time Barilaro got his way and used government’s majority to vote against the petition being ‘noted’.”
This was a snub to the 12,300 petitioners, including the 1,013 people who signed the petition that lived in John Barilaro’s Monaro electorate.
Read the full debate here >>
Labor’s Trish Doyle, who introduced the petition, and Kate Washington, along with Helen Dalton from Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, attacked government mismanagement of water catchments, the lack of action on feral horses and the resulting destruction of threatened species habitat.
Prior to the debate, a powerful coalition of farmers, scientists, retired park managers, skiers, bushwalkers, students and teachers rallied in Hyde Park, urging the NSW Government to take immediate action on feral horses. They were concerned about the effect of sky-rocketing horse numbers on the critically endangered animals and plants living in the park, and the lack of an effective plan to address the problem.
Reclaim Kosci petition organiser Linda Groom and a team of other volunteers spent months tirelessly manning stalls around NSW, gaining hand-written signatures for the petition.
The 12,300 signature petition demanded a repeal of the controversial Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act, to implement effective horse control measures and to repair waterways impacted by feral horses.
Ms Groom said, “I think it is significant that over 12,300 people thought about this issue carefully and were willing to sign a petition that includes lethal culling as one method of managing the horse damage in Kosciuszko National Park.
“The people who signed the petition had the courage to make a difficult decision – the right decision to protect Kosciuszko’s animals and plants. And yet the NSW government, after campaigning with the slogan ‘getting the job done’ seems unable to take any action.
“We need to protect our park and manage these feral horses. What is it going to take for the NSW Government to understand this issue needs to be addressed?”
Scientist Professor David Watson, who resigned from the NSW Government’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee after the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act was passed by parliament last year said, “Since the day it was introduced into parliament this legislation has been opposed by the Australian Academy of Sciences, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and more than 100 eminent scientists as part of the Kosciuszko Science Accord,
“Protecting a feral animal in a national park is madness.”
Richard Swain has campaigned hard to overturn the Act as coordinator of the community group Reclaim Kosci.
“We know feral animals shouldn’t be protected in a national park,” he said.
“Do we protect rabbits, deer, pigs, goats or other feral animals? No, because common sense prevails and the majority of society understands that these animals harm our native habitat, threatened plants and animals and farmland. Horses are no different.”
“National parks were created to protect the unique natural values of Australia’s wild places and the native plants and animals that rely on them for survival.
“Protecting a feral animal in a national park is an act of environmental vandalism,” said Mr Swain.