An appeal was heard before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) on Monday, 16 August, to access key reports on the management of wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park.
The appeal, lodged by the Invasive Species Council in support of the Reclaim Kosci campaign, seeks access to the final reports developed by the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Community Advisory Panel and Wild Horse Scientific Advisory Panel.
The panels were appointed by NSW Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean in 2019 to advise on a new draft wild horse heritage management plan under the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018.
Despite meeting several times from November 2019 to August 2020, reports of the individual and combined committee meetings were heavily redacted, offering little insight into the discussions of each committee.
Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said both reports completed in 2020 have been withheld by the NSW Government despite being requested under the state’s freedom of information laws.
“Even the scientific panel itself expected its report to be publicly released,” he said.
Mr Cox said the NSW Government must release these reports and its draft feral horse plan urgently.
“The time for excuses and delay has passed,” he said. “The community deserves transparency from the government, and we are not getting that at the moment.”
Mr Cox said the NCAT appeal comes as a result of the failure by the NSW Government to release its draft feral horse plan, promised by 30 June, 2021.
“We have growing feral horse numbers in the park and they are trampling sensitive alpine ecosystems,” he said. “There is currently no effective plan to control these animals in Kosciuszko.
“We haven’t taken this action lightly, but we have no choice when the NSW Government is sitting on its hands on this issue.”
Nature Conservation Council of NSW CEO Chris Gambian said that while the NSW Government delays its plan to control feral horses, John Barilaro’s department is fast-tracking plans to expand commercial development within Kosciuszko National Park.
“Kosciuszko National Park is the jewel in the NSW parks estate, and nationally significant, but it is under huge pressure,” he said.
“Failure to protect Kosciuszko from feral horses and overdevelopment is nothing short of environmental vandalism.”
Pro-brumby groups have also called for a release of all reports from the two advisory committees.
A final NCAT hearing for the review is set for 22 October, 2021.
Federal Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley has weighed into the wild horses debate, and confirmed to Region Media in July that she had written to Minister Kean to express her ongoing concerns about the damage caused by wild horses to the biodiversity and heritage values of Kosciusko National Park.
Minister Ley said NSW had vowed to release its draft Kosciuszko National Park wild horse management plan for public comment in the first half of 2021, but she is awaiting the release of this document.
“It is critical the NSW plan meaningfully protects the biodiversity and heritage values of the Australian Alps from the impact of feral horses,” she said.
Minister Ley has been contacted for comment on the tribunal hearing.