Feral Horse Heritage Act
In June 2018 the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act became law. It was the first law to prioritise the protection of an introduced animal, the domestic horse, above the native wildlife of the national park – areas deliberately set aside for conservation purposes.
The surprise law sent shockwaves through the international scientific community; the NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee had just determined that feral horses were a key threatening process to native species.
The law was roundly condemned by the IUCN, the Australian Academy of Science, the ACT Government, the RSPCA and members of the NSW government’s own expert technical committee.
Dr David Watson resigns from the NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee upon learning of the wild horse legislation.
Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018
The law was introduced by then Deputy Premier, and member for Monaro, John Barilaro and states that a new wild horse heritage management plan will be prepared for Kosciuszko National Park. There are two fundamental problems with this legislation.
Firstly, the heritage plan to be developed to protect the feral horses in the park can explicitly override the legal protection for native wildlife provided by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. In a worrying precedent, the NSW government can designate large parts of Kosciuszko National Park for horse protection regardless of the ongoing negative impacts that would result.
While this legislation stands, feral horses will have a higher status than the native wildlife of the national park.
Secondly, the new law was imposed without warning, consultation or broad community support. Between 2013-2016 NSW’s National Parks and Wildlife Service undertook broad community engagement, consulted with animal welfare scientists and spent close to $1 million tax-payer dollars that led to the development of the compromise 2016 draft wild horse management plan. The plan was submitted to the environment minister for approval in 2016 but little was heard from the government.
Come 2018 and the Wild Horse Heritage Bill was passed in parliament only two weeks after being announced and only pleases those that don’t want horses removed from the park and a local horse-riding business.
This situation will irresponsibly allow feral horses to further spread, expanding their impacts throughout the national park and on visitors, motorists and neighbouring land holders.
Implications for horse management in Kosciuszko
On November 24 2021 the NSW Government finalised a new Kosciuszko horse management plan.
The plan promises a significant reduction in feral horses, but leaves one third of the park overrun by this damaging feral animal. The plan will reduce the horse population by 80% – from around 14,000 to 3000, over just five years. Compared to the slow removal rates over the past 20 years, this, if achieved, would be a significant improvement for horse control in the Kosciuszko.
However, the plan is still a long way from what’s needed to solve Kosciuszko’s horse crisis. In drawing up the plan Minister Kean was hamstrung by the Wild Horse Heritage Act, a draconian piece of legislation that requires the protection of feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park.
The retention of feral horses in one third of Kosciuszko is deeply problematic. It locks in damage to the Byadbo and Pilot wilderness areas in the south and creates an ongoing horse population within and adjacent to the Jagungal Wilderness Area.
Wetlands such as the vast Currango peat wetlands in the north and critical habitat of threatened species such as the northern corroboree frog, stocky galaxias and the lovable broad-toothed mouse will all suffer as the damaging impacts of hard-hooves is locked in for the plan’s duration and while ever the Wild Horse Heritage Act is in place.
Reclaim Kosci will not give up until Kosciuszko is protected. In 2019 and 2021 we presented parliamentary petitions with over 10,000 and 15,000 signatures, respectively, calling for the repeal of the Act.
Please support our campaign by making a tax-deductible donation today.
Get our email updates
Subscribe to our Reclaim Kosci email updates for all the latest news on the campaign to protect
Kosciuszko National Park from destructive feral horses.