Eleventh hour efforts are being made by Reclaim Kosci to secure the 20,000 signatures required for an e-petition that would trigger a second NSW Parliamentary debate on the issue of wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park.
With 10,500 signatures already secured, the final push to get the remaining 9500 names nailed before the 11:59 pm deadline on Wednesday, 13 January, means more volunteers on streets, a strong social media push and a little help from some friends.
Last month, it was rock star former federal minister Peter Garrett who loaned his support to the effort when he flew into the national park to see – by air and on the ground – the damage wrought by the horse population.
It was during this visit when Mr Garrett urged park enthusiasts and supporters to sign the Reclaim Kosci petition, which seeks to get the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018 debated and then repealed in NSW Parliament.
This is a second petition attempt by Reclaim Kosci, which is an umbrella organisation for a consortium of groups seeking to protect Kosciuszko National Park from the impact of wild horses.
The first, with 12,000 signatures, was voted down by NSW Government MPs in the state’s lower house in 2019.
Launched in October 2020, Reclaim Kosci said its new e-petition would give Kosciuszko National Park supporters another chance to urge action on out-of-control wild horse numbers.
“The future of Kosciuszko National Park is under threat from unmanaged horse populations and a law that gives priority to horses ahead of its native wildlife,” said conservation officer and Reclaim Kosci campaigner Candice Bartlett.
“Since the last horse petition was presented to NSW Parliament in August 2019, the park remains without a horse management plan and the horse population in Kosciuszko National Park has continued to grow.”
The new e-petition is not only calling on the NSW Legislative Assembly to repeal the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018, but to also urgently implement a new Kosciuszko horse management plan and fund a restoration program for horse affected areas in Kosciuszko National Park.
Efforts ramped up in December 2020 as Reclaim Kosci mounted a recruitment campaign for volunteer coordinators.
“We’ve been really pleased with the support so far, particularly while things slowed down during Christmas and COVID-19 developments,” said Ms Bartlett. “My team of more than 13 volunteers encouraged up to 500 signatures in the Blue Mountains and another 1000 were gathered by our volunteers down in Kosciuszko National Park.
“We still expect more signatures to roll in during the coming hours.”
NSW conservation groups are also stepping up.
“Just last week, one of the original five founders of the Reclaim Kosci campaign – the Nature Conservation Council – called its supporters to action, resulting in a big jump in signees,” said Ms Bartlett.
“20,000 signatures automatically triggers debate in the House, however the petition will still be tabled in the NSW Legislative Assembly and we will be urging members of parliament – including the petition’s sponsor, Member for Wagga Wagga Dr Joe McGirr – to debate the petition’s urgent call for action.
“It’s been two years since the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act was introduced and we are still waiting to see the long awaited management plan that promised to reduce horse numbers to protect sensitive habitats.
“In the past few months, we’ve seen support for Kosciuszko National Park coming from all sides of politics, with current Federal Minster for the Environment Sussan Ley, and rock legend and former Labor Minister for the Environment Peter Garrett, calling for better management of horses in the park. It’s time to break the cycle of inaction NSW is stuck in.”
Ms Bartlett said the silent upshot of their campaigns has been public awareness.
“What’s been eye-opening during the petition process is the level of awareness that now exists in communities since the campaign first started more than two years ago,” she said.
“Many more people are aware that horses don’t belong in national parks and that their removal, alongside other pests, is critical for the protection of unique and fragile Australian habitats.”
To access Reclaim Kosci’s e-petition, click here.