Aerial brumby cull closes parts of Kosciuszko National Park for six months

Aerial brumby cull closes parts of Kosciuszko National Park for six months

About 20 per cent of Kosciuszko National Park will be closed to the public for the next six months as an aerial shooting program takes place targeting brumbies and other feral animals.

The NSW government is required by law to reduce the number of feral horses in Kosciuszko to 3,000 by June 2027, in a bid to better protect the fragile alpine ecosystem while balancing the heritage value of the brumby.

As part of this work, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NNPWS) closed a northern section of the park today to conduct aerial shooting operations.

While the program has sparked mixed opinions, some say it will provide better protection for native animals and plants.

Bushwalking NSW president David Bell said aerial culling was “something you would prefer not to do”.

“But in the circumstances, we think it’s an effective measure to get the size [of the brumby population] down,” he said.

The NSW government by law must reduce brumby numbers to 3,000 by June 2027.(ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon)

The NSW government adopted aerial shooting as an additional control method to manage wild horses numbers in October and put it into practice the following month.

The latest survey estimates more than 17,000 feral horses remain in the park.

Just over 4,000 horses have been removed from the park since November 2021, when the current management plan was implemented.

Of those, 959 have been rehomed, while the rest have been removed by other methods including aerial shooting, ground shooting and transportation to a knackery.

Marginal impact on visitors

Mr Bell said the six-month closure was well-timed.

“Most people go bushwalking during the green season, which starts from October through to about now,” he said.

“Many bushwalkers are also skiers, so they do use the area in the winter months.

“But overall … I think the impact will be fairly marginal.”

A northern section of Kosciuszko National Park will close for six months from today.(ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon)

Mr Bell said he had witness the issues feral horses created firsthand.

“I’ve had personal experiences of being harassed by horses in the park, there’s simply too many of them,” he said.

“The horses are impacting on the environment … on waterways, trampling … bogs and species like the corroboree frog and the broad-toothed rat.”

Doubts raised

The southern section of the park closed between March 4 and 28 for the same purpose.

The latest closure coincides with the peak winter period, but the NNPWS said in a statement that key tourist areas would remain open including Yarrangobilly Caves and ski resorts such as Perisher, Thredbo, Charlotte Pass and Selwyn Snowy Resort.

The NNPWS said it was working with two businesses affected by the closures to “minimise impacts”, and that some campgrounds and walking tracks would be closed.

Emma Hurst is the chair of the NSW upper house inquiry examining the use of aerial shooting.(ABC News: Xanthe Gregory)

Animal Justice Party member Emma Hurst, who is also the chair of a NSW upper house inquiry examining the use of aerial shooting in the park, views the move as premature.

“The fact that the NSW government is going ahead with this aerial shooting program, despite the fact the inquiry is ongoing, disrespects the entire upper house parliamentary process,” she said.

“We haven’t even created recommendations as part of that report to the government.”

In March, Ms Hurst put forward a notice of motion to the NSW upper house to stop aerial shooting in the park altogether, which failed to pass.

A NSW Environment Department spokesperson said in a statement it received more than 11,000 submissions during the public consultation process on aerial shooting last year, “with the majority of those who commented on aerial shooting supporting its inclusion as a tool”.

The NNPWS said more than two months notice had been provided for the northern closure, with landholders informed directly and physical closure notices put up in the park.

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