A NSW Parliament petition calling for an end to feral horse trapping, culling and removal in Kosciuszko National Park has attracted just 4231 signatures from NSW residents and publication of the results reveals it was sponsored by the NSW Nationals Party leader, John Barilaro, whose government is implementing the trapping and removal policy.

“Mr Barilaro can’t make up his mind whether he wants to remove horses from Kosciuszko National Park or whether he wants them to run rampant,” Reclaim Kosci spokesperson Candice Bartlett said.

“Adding to the policy confusion Mr Barilaro told a Parliament estimates committee this month he supported a cut in the feral horse numbers in the park of up to 10,000, in direct contradiction of the terms of the petition he elected to sponsor.”

Sponsorship of the petition by the Nationals leader is also a reversal of the party’s stand when it demanded government members vote against noting a 2019 petition calling for the repeal of NSW feral horse protection legislation, despite this procedure in the past being accepted as a parliamentary formality.

“As a result of this confusing behaviour voters in his electorate of Monaro are entitled to ask which hat he is wearing whenever the issue of feral horse control in Kosciuszko National Park is raised – NSW Government policy or the populist clamour of a vocal minority who insist feral horses have a place in Kosciuszko National Park, posing an ongoing threat to the park’s native species,” Ms Bartlett said.

Sections of the park are covered by three NSW electorates, including that of the independent member for Wagga, Dr Joe McGirr, who sponsored a Reclaim Kosci petition in January that attracted 15,228 signatures from NSW residents over the maximum three month signing period.

The more popular petition called for an urgent reduction of feral horse numbers in Kosciuszko National Park and supported a horse management plan that incorporates scientific and RSPCA advice.

Mr Barilaro’s demands for a post-fire count last year revealed that more than 14,000 are now at large in the park, a number described by environmental activist and former federal environment minister, Peter Garrett, as a “plague” after he carried out a ground inspection of the northern end of the park in December 2020.

Despite the NSW policy of horse removal, so far in this year of the 699 feral horses trapped 253 were released back into the park, being pregnant mares or those with foals.

The Invasive Species Council has written to NSW environment minister Matt Kean calling for an end to the policy of releasing trapped horses and to urgently finalise a horse management plan for Kosciuszko that reduces horse numbers and gives the parks service the freedom to begin restoring vital habitat.

>> Read Invasive Species Council’s letter to NSW environment minister Kean