The State of New South Wales has been challenged by The Snowy Mountains Brumby Sustainability & Management Group Incorporated (SMBSMGI) in the Land and Environment Court over the planned trap and removal (including rehoming) of some horses from important conservation areas of Kosciuszko National Park as part of the post-fire wildlife recovery measures.
The court hearing was held on Thursday July 9. Members of the public could attend the court hearing online. Reclaim Kosci staffers now report back.
It was seven hours of legal to-and-fro in the NSW Land and Environment Court on Thursday. By the end of it, we were no clearer to knowing where the planned trapping of horses in northern Kosciuszko National park would be allowed to proceed or not.
Here’s what we do know.
The post-fires trapping of horses on Nungar Plain, Cooleman Plain and Kiandra/Boggy Plain has been planned since February, when NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean gave it the green light. This was the latest move to stall it.
Lawyer Mark Seymour, acting on behalf of the SMBSMGI, sought to prove that the planned trapping falls outside the auspices of the 2008 Kosciuszko National Park Horse Management Plan, which is the plan that still applies and that the activity (trapping and removal) required assessment of its environmental impact.
He attempted to show that the trapping constituted a use of land for which the plan did not specifically provide.
The Hon. Justice Sandra Duggan responded to this point by asking how the activity of trapping could be classed as a use of land – given the horses are already there, and are being rounded up for the purposes of transportation out of the park.
Mr Seymour based much of his argument on the fact that there could be concentrated environmental damage in and around the trap yards.
But Mr Seymour’s main point, repeated often, was that the 2008 Plan provided no specific allowance for the post-fires trapping.
Justice Duggan stated the question simply: does the plan encompass this action?
Lawyer Patricia McDonald acting for the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service argued that the current planned program does indeed meet the criteria of the 2008 Plan.
Mc McDonald said the Plan was always designed to be a flexible and dynamic plan of management, and argued that it looks at the impact of horses and not what enhances that impact (for example, floods or bushfires).
The objectives of the 2008 plan include excluding horses from the Main Range, Yarrangobilly and Cooleman Plain management unit, as well as ‘areas of the park where horses have not been or have only recently been recorded’.
Justice Duggan reserved her judgement and adjourned the hearing until next Friday, although a decision may be handed down earlier.