The enormous environmental impact of wild horses in alpine areas is well documented. In Victoria the government has recently announced a plan to remove a large number of the wild horse population. However in NSW, the argument that wild horses are a cultural component of the landscape despite their impacts has seen the development of legislation that would enshrine the existence of horse populations in the Kosciusko National Park.

The Bill was debated in parliament last night and passed as a result of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party and the Christian Democrats opting to support the Bill.

Peter Hannam, writing in The Canberra Times reports that:

The Berejiklian government has secured passage through Parliament of a controversial bill to protect wild horses in the state’s largest national park, ignoring broad protests from scientists and even a farmer responsible for relocating many of the feral animals.

Extending protection to so-called “heritage horses” is “incompatible with the principles that underpin Australia’s world-leading protected area system, and with our commitments as a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity”, the academy said in a letter sent to the government.

“Reports from bog, stream, and dry habitats in Kosciuszko and Victoria indicate a wide range of ecosystems are degraded by feral horses,” the letter said.

“This research leads the academy to expect substantial negative impacts on species and ecosystems within the park arising from the provisions of the Heritage Bill,” the letter said.

The creation of a community advisory panel that had no requirement for members with scientific qualifications meant science-based advice would be “all but removed from the management” of the horses, it added.

The Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Bill 2018 was passed late on Wednesday with the Liberal-Nationals Coalition gaining support from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party and the Christian Democrats.

Earlier the Australian Academy of Science joined a lengthening list of scientific groups – including the International Union for Conservation of Nature – to condemn the plan to prioritise an invasive animal over native species in the Kosciuszko National Park.