In early October 2023 the Federal Government published their findings from the Inquiry into the Impacts and management of feral horses in the Australian Alps.

The report reiterated the severe damage feral horses are doing to threatened places and wildlife, waterways and First Nations cultural heritage.

It painted a stark picture of our national nature laws (the EPBC Act) failure to protect our alpine ecosystems, threatened plants and animals, and the integrity of this iconic heritage-listed landscape. It also catalogued the impact of threats, bullying and intimidation by feral horse supporters on conservation staff, Traditional Owners and alpine advocates.

Another recurring theme was the disastrous legislation in New South Wales that has fuelled an explosion feral horse numbers across the alps, particularly within Kosciusko National Park. The cascading populations continue to directly harm water catchments and threatened wild and plant life.

The protection of feral horses by the NSW Government compromises removal programs by Victoria and the ACT, highlighting the need for better coordination across state and territory borders.

The report states “The Commonwealth Government has obligations through the EPBC Act to protect listed National Heritage places and threatened species and communities. Further, it has commitments through binding international treaties such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Despite this, previous Commonwealth Governments have had minimal engagement in the management of feral horses, and the current EPBC Act has ultimately so far failed to protect the national heritage value of the Australian Alps, including critically endangered species, in spite of its National Heritage listing and international obligations.’

Here’s hoping the push by the current Federal Government under Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek will see these failures rectified under Commonwealth law.

We welcome the recommendations from the report and refresh our call on the Commonwealth Government to lead cooperation between state and territory governments. This is vital if we are to protect our shared places of national heritage and Commonwealth-listed endangered wildlife.

We emphatically support greater representation of First Nations peoples on the Australian Alps Liaison committee, embedding indigenous knowledge and culture in any processes and management.

VNPA presented to the Environment and Communications References Committee hearings during the inquiry.Our submission on the impacts of feral horses on alpine parks and ecology also raised feral horse issues in areas like Barmah National Park.