Documents obtained through NSW freedom of information laws confirm the NSW government ignored advice on feral horse removal in Kosciuszko National Park following the devastating bushfires of 2019/20.
“Heavily redacted information released to the Reclaim Kosci campaign after a freedom of information request paints a worrying picture of a government refusing to listen to the advice of its own scientific and community panels,” Reclaim Kosci spokesperson James Trezise said today.
“Both panels were created to play an important role in advising on a draft horse management plan and reconvened last year to address the urgent need for an emergency recovery plan to reduce feral horse damage in bushfire-hit areas of Kosciuszko National Park.
“The documents show the Berejiklian government was warned that to remove enough horses to protect the three bushfire-hit priority areas, trapping and rehoming on its own would not work,” Mr Trezise said.
“The scientific panel recommended ways to improve the trapping rate, such as ground and aerial mustering, and if this failed to remove enough horses, alternative control measures that have acceptable animal welfare outcomes should be used, including trapping and sending to a local abattoir or trapping and shooting.
“The documents also reveal that both the Community Advisory Panel and the Scientific Advisory Panel agreed that a full suite of control measures were needed if horse numbers were to be effectively managed as part of bushfire remediation measures.”
The NSW Government instead refused to change horse removal methods, relying exclusively on trapping and rehoming which is unlikely to keep pace with horse breeding rates. It has also released about a third of all trapped horses – foals and pregnant mares – back into Kosciuszko, contrary to standard operating procedures.
“The scientific panel also expressed concern over the ‘almost complete absence’ of any assessment of impacts of feral horses on Indigenous cultural values in the park,” Mr Trezise said.
“These documents give us a taste of the peril facing Kosciuszko when experts are ignored. If the government had listened to its experts, sensitive areas such as the wetlands and grasslands of Nungar Plain that were severely burnt and a target for complete horse removal would now be free of horses.”
The NSW Government has denied access to the final reports of either advisory panel despite both reports being completed at the end of 2020.
A new horse management plan for the park, first promised to be finalised by March 2020, is now 20 months overdue. The draft plan was last promised for release by June 2021.
“The NSW Government must put an end to its veil of secrecy around feral horse management and stop dragging its feet on the release of a draft feral horse plan.”
A total of 15 documents were provided after an internal review, most were heavily redacted, with access to the final reports of the scientific and community advisory panel rejected.
Reclaim Kosci has appealed to the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal to release all documents requested.
- CAP FINAL Minutes 1 Nov 19 _Redacted
- CAP Minutes 9 Dec 2019_Redacted
- SAP and CAP Combined Meeting Minutes 14 February 2020_Redacted
- CAP Meeting Minutes 14 February 2020_Redacted
- SAP and CAP Combined Meeting Minutes 3 March 2020_Redacted
- SAP Meeting Minutes 15 May 2020_Redacted
- SAP Meeting Minutes 2 April 2020_Redacted
- SAP Meeting Minutes 6 Nov 2019_Redacted
- SAP Meeting Minutes 17 December 2019_Redacted
- SAP Meeting Minutes 13 Feb 2020_Redacted
- CAP Minutes 7 August 2020_Redacted
- Combined Meeting Minutes 12 June 2020_Redacted
- FINAL Kosciuszko Wild Horse Community Advisory Panel Report _Redacted
- FINAL Report of the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Scientific Advisory Panel 10.9.20_Redacted
- Post fire wild horse control advice from SAP
- DPIE 21-1557 Internal review decision – 11 May 2021