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Inquiry finds catastrophic impact on species, waterways and ecosystems from feral horses

The Senate Environment and Communications References Committee has this afternoon tabled the report from its eight-month long inquiry into the impacts and management of feral horses in the Australian Alps.

ACT Independent Senator David Pocock instigated the inquiry with the support of the government and the Greens and contributed additional comments, including four recommendations, in addition to the 14 recommendations in the main committee report.

The final report documents compelling evidence of the catastrophic impacts feral horses are having on threatened species, waterways and ecosystems in this unique part of Australia’s landscape.

“Horses are beautiful animals but the evidence to this inquiry documents beyond a doubt that they do not belong in our National Parks,” Senator Pocock said.“In our huge continent, we need to confine their existence to more appropriate areas.

“As it stands, feral horses are threatening 12 incredible Australian plants and animals, including the iconic corroboree frog and the quality of our water which we simply can’t afford with 30 per of water in the Murray-Darling Basin coming from the region.”

The committee called for increased funding for feral horse management, a threat abatement plan, the use of aerial culling as the most humane and most cost-effective management tool and for feral horses should be listed as a key threatening process.

Senator Pocock’s recommendations built on these by calling for: 

  • the urgent repeal the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018, which has been identified as presenting the biggest threat to the Australian Alps; 
  • all jurisdictions to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to feral horse management;
  • immediate and ongoing funding to the ACT Government to allow the work of feral horse monitoring and management to continue; and
  • amendment of the EPBC Act to add "the failure to act", as a definition of ‘action’, where the result of that failure is likely or be known to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance.

The inquiry also raised questions around the Commonwealth’s powers to act when it comes to the management of critical environmental outcomes such as this, which will have a bearing on the reform of national environmental laws next year.

“We don’t get a second chance when it comes to preserving the future of threatened species and habitats,” Senator Pocock said.

“It is imperative that the federal government have the power to intervene in cases of climate and environmental mismanagement.”

Senator Pocock said the mismanagement of feral horses in NSW has created significant issues for the ACT. 

“Dealing with feral horses crossing into the territory creates extra management costs, and risks damaging our water quality and our iconic Namadgi National Park,” Senator Pocock said.

“The ecological health and biodiversity of this critically important region is something that matters deeply to many Canberrans.”

Senator Pocock thanked everyone who participated in the inquiry noting over 800 submissions had been received and applauded the committee members and secretariat for their hard work on this issue. 


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