A proposed cull of wild horses in the Kosciuszko National Park is being scrapped and any future culling will be outlawed under plans from the New South Wales government.
It is estimated 6000 brumbies live within the Kosciuszko National Park and conservationists have long argued they damage the sensitive environment.
But culling the animals has always proved controversial.
A 2016 draft Wild Horse Management Plan handed to the NSW Government recommended reducing the number of horses in the park by 90 per cent over 20 years, primarily through culling.
It would have left roughly 600 horses within the park.
That plan will not go ahead, and the government will instead look to pass legislation to protect the animals.
Deputy NSW Premier John Barilaro said the cultural significance of the brumbies needed to be recognised.
“Wild brumbies have been roaming the Australian alps for almost 200 years and are part of the cultural fabric and folklore of the high country,” Mr Barilaro said.
He said the “Brumbies Bill” would put an end to any suggestion the animals should be culled.
“The heritage management plan will specifically prohibit lethal culling of the brumby, aerial or otherwise, and will identify those areas in the park where brumbies can roam without causing significant environmental harm,” Mr Barilaro said.
“If brumbies are found in highly-sensitive alpine areas of Kosciuszko National Park, resources will be allocated towards relocation first, followed by re-homing, should population numbers grow too high.
“I have always opposed cruel forms of culling and have advocated for non-lethal ways of managing brumby numbers.
Wild horses and Kosciuszko’s future
The bill will require all future plans of management for Kosciuszko National Park to consider the cultural significance of the horses.
“Kosciuszko National Park exists to protect the unique environment of the Snowy Mountains, and that unique environment includes wild brumbies,” Mr Barilaro said.
A community advisory panel will also be established to inform future policy on the brumbies, and more research will be done to provide more accurate population figures.
But the plan appears to be out of step with recent advice from the NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee, which recently took steps towards listing habitat loss from brumbies as a “key threatening process”.
Dr Graeme Worboys from the ANU’s Fenner School of Environment and Society said the horses simply do not belong in the national park, at least in their current numbers.
“Wild horses are introduced stock animals,” he said.
“Too many are trashing Kosciuszko’s wetlands, streams and catchments across the entire park.”
Despite his concerns about horses within Kosciuszko, Dr Worboys had lent his support to the previous cull plans which maintained a place for the animals in the national park.
“The original draft plan was developed as a compromise document after extensive, diverse input,” he said.
“It received my support despite knowing the 600 horses recommended would still cause impacts.
“It only takes a couple of horses and time to trash a wetland.”
Mr Barilaro said the bill would be introduced in the NSW Parliament next week.