A report that federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley has written to her NSW counterpart about her intention to use national environmental law to compel action to remove feral horses from Kosciuszko National Park is an important circuit-breaker.
Minister Ley this week informed NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean she intends to issue regulations under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to oblige the state to take action on feral horses.
“This action by minister Ley is unprecedented. It would be the first time that federal laws have been used this way to protect a national heritage place threatened by an invasive species,” Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said.
“Federal leadership on this matter is desperately needed because the NSW Government has proven incapable of taking the necessary action to drive down feral horse numbers.”
NSW horse control efforts in Kosciuszko National Park since 2003 have been ineffective and have failed to stop the exponential growth of feral horse numbers.
“This historic move by the federal government to safeguard one of the jewels in the country’s national park estate would fulfil Australia’s international obligations to conserve its natural wildlife and ecosystems,” Mr Cox said.
“Feral horses are damaging Indigenous heritage and are a major threat to the precious ecosystems and wildlife that call Kosciuszko home.
“You can have a healthy environment in Kosciuszko or you can have 14,000 feral horses, but you can’t have both.
“The NSW Government can no longer make excuses and empty promises. It must step up and deliver a plan that will significantly reduce feral horse numbers in the park.
“It also cannot hide the facts. The NSW Government must immediately release the final report of its feral horse Scientific Advisory Panel, which it has refused to do despite legitimate requests under freedom of information laws.”
Kosciuszko National Park is part of the Australian Alps National Parks and Reserves National Heritage Place and is protected by federal environmental law. It is also home to a significant number of nationally threatened species and ecological communities, such as the critically endangered corroboree frog and the endangered alpine sphagnum bogs and fens ecological community, as well as internationally protected wetlands.