Australia’s federal environment minister Sussan Ley was visibly shocked at the damage feral horses are inflicting on Kosciuszko National Park during a visit in December.

The minister joined a four-hour inspection of Kosciuszko to see for herself the areas damaged by feral horses and those impacted by the bushfires.

She was accompanied by Professor Jamie Pittock, ecologist Jessica Ward Jones and Renee Hartley, an expert in alpine she-oak skink and broadtoothed rat, all from ANU.

During the inspection the minister was particularly concerned about the impact of hard-hooved animals on the environment.

“Close to the source of the headwaters of the Murrumbidgee it doesn’t look really that flash and I am told that the Murray is worse and that the damage that is being done by hard-hooved animals, principally horses, but there are some deer, is not helping,” she said.

The minister was shown sphagnum moss habitat of the critically endangered northern corroboree frog, burrows of the vulnerable broad-toothed mouse and an endangered alpine she-oak skink.

She said farmers understand the balance between protecting the environment, raising livestock, Snowy and the valuable role it contributes.

“It’s quite extraordinary that the wild horses have put the pressure on the park that they have over the recent years,” she said.

“I remember the park when this area was my electorate when I first became a member of parliament and clear differences between then and now and the pressure of horses is a call to action I think for agencies, state government, and people who care about the environment and agriculture and farming and the balance between the two.

“So it is all a balance, it isn’t all about one versus the other, it’s about looking after everyone and looking after the environment and we do have to get that balance right.”

The minister received a copy of Kosciuszko: A Great National Park by the late Graeme Worboys and Deirdre Slattery.