Today John Barilaro reneged in his support for bushfire emergency horse removal measures, calling for horse removal from Kosciuszko National Park to stop.

“It would be tragic if horses were not removed from parts of the park worst affected by the devastating summer bushfires,” said Tom Bagnat, former NPWS regional director and Reclaim Kosci spokesperson.

In February 2020, NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean announced emergency post-bushfire measures targeting three areas in northern Kosciuszko being damaged by horses – Boggy/Kiandra, Nungar and Cooleman plains.

The measures were supported by the community advisory panel set up under the special legislation introduced by NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro.

At the time Mr Barilaro claimed that the emergency horse removal was his idea: ‘Minister Kean has acknowledged that on my advice and on the work of the Panel and Committee that he agrees this is the right way forward.’ [1]

In May Mr Barilaro boasted to ABC Sydney ‘today we’re now moving more brumbies out of Kosciuszko National Park than ever in the past few years’ [2]

Horse trapping in the three priority areas is due to start in June.

But today Mr Barilaro said that removing the horses from the park would be a ‘wild and reckless act’.

“This looks more like a stunt to attract attention during the Eden Monaro by-election”, said Mr Bagnat.

Feral horses were largely unscathed from the bushfires, which burnt about 34% of the park, with many horses moving into unburnt areas, increasing the pressure on the park’s native plants and animals.

Every year the horse population in Kosciuszko National Park continues to grow at more than 20% and the latest scientific-based horse count put numbers in the park at around 20,000.

In the leadup to the March 2019 state election, Mr Barilaro promised to ‘immediately’ remove 50% of horses from the park.

Regular horse removal last took place until winter 2017.  Since then, only 99 horses have been removed. This was to ensure visitor safety at Blue Waterholes after campers were attacked by horses in separate incidents, one requiring hospitalisation.

“So Mr Barilaro! Do you want to remove any horses from Kosciuszko National Park? Or do you want Kosciuszko National Park to become a horse paddock?” concluded Mr Bagnat.

[1] Statement by John Barilaro 19 February 2020.
[2] ABC Radio Sydney 22 May 2020 8:45am speaking to Robbie Buck and Wendy Harmer.