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 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.
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Kosciuszko National Park from destructive feral horses.