IN THE MEDIA 7 February 2018 |

Opinion piece published in The Weekly Times by Phil Ingamells of Victorian National Parks Association.

Parks Victoria is about to take action on the thousands of feral horses trampling wetlands and eating out other areas of Victoria’s magnificent Alpine National Park.

It’s been a long journey to get to this stage, involving two exhaustive series of stakeholder consultations and numerous expert reports over the last six years.

The length of that process is remarkable, given that a seemingly endless list of obligations under international treaty, and national and state law, actually compel the government to act on feral animals.

However it seemed the common perception of the ‘pure-bred brumby’, galloping through alpine wildflowers, might be able to over-ride decades of evidence and unambiguous law. The truth is a little different, however; the horses up there are a bit of a hotch-potch of breeds, and they don’t always have a good time. They suffer and die in droves in bushfires, drought and heavy winter snows. Many are in a condition that, if found on a farm, would lead to action against their owner.

In 1946, long before the Bogong High Plains were included in a national park, action was taken to remove horses and sheep from the area and limit cattle grazing. It was found back then that hard-hooved grazers were causing soil erosion and affecting the quality and release of water at the headwaters of so many of Victoria’s rivers.

Science informed that action then, and the “outstanding” nature of the many high country scientific studies have now been recognised in the National Heritage listing for the Australian Alps National Parks.

Victoria’s Alpine National Park protects some 575 rare and threatened plants and animals, many of which have been slowly recovering from decades of grazing. The cattle are gone, but horses, deer, pigs and goats now increasingly reign over what should be one of the land’s most important protected conservation reserves.

The high country shouldn’t be a paddock, it’s a national park.

Parks Victoria has recently increased action on pigs in the eastern alps, and Victoria’s environment department is developing a strategy to deal with the so-far-intractable problem of feral deer.

By removing all horses from the Bogong High Plains, and taking 400 a year from the eastern Alpine National Park, Parks Victoria is starting a process to restore this remarkable park to health. This action must be done as humane as possible, but doing nothing won’t help the park or the horses.