Protecting the Alpine National Park
Friday 8 May, 2020
Federal Court finds in favour of Parks Victoria
The Federal Court of Australia has today delivered its judgement in the case between Parks Victoria and the Australian Brumby Alliance (ABA), ruling in favour of Parks Victoria.
Parks Victoria welcomes the decision from the Federal Court today which recognises the severe impacts of feral horses on the iconic Alpine National Park and allows horse control programs to resume.
The ABA had sought an injunction to stop Parks Victoria undertaking removal of feral horses from the Alpine National Park in accordance with its ‘Protection of the Alpine National Park- Feral Horse Strategic Action Plan 2018-2021’. The question before the Court was whether the removal of horses by Parks Victoria challenged cultural heritage values associated with horses in the Alpine National Park, as defined under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and the National Heritage List.
Parks Victoria has an obligation to reduce the abundance of feral horses in Victoria’s national parks as necessary to protect natural values and meet legislative obligations.
His Honour Justice O’Bryan stated “I am not satisfied that the Action, involving the removal of brumbies from the Bogong High Plains and the reduction in number of brumbies in the Eastern Alps, will have or is likely to have a significant impact on the National Heritage values of the Australian Alps."
Over the past 18 months, the injunction led to Parks Victoria suspending the majority of the alpine feral horse management operation. Trapping and rehoming programs that were previously implemented were put on hold, subsequently limiting the effectiveness in significantly reducing the feral horse population and environmental damage to the fragile wildlife, plants and habitats in the Victorian Alps.
During this period, a comprehensive aerial survey across the Australian Alps found a significant increase in feral horse numbers, 2 to 3 times higher than in the previous survey (estimates rising from 9,000 to 24,000 horses over five years). Additionally, the bushfires over the 2019-20 summer have greatly impacted large areas of the Victorian Alps, resulting in significant loss of threatened native wildlife and ecosystems. Remaining unburnt areas are being severely overgrazed and damaged by large numbers of feral horses.
Given the current circumstances, Parks Victoria will be commencing an additional technique to control horses. Small-team operations will be deployed into high-conservation priority locations where ground-based professional shooters will use thermal imaging and noise suppressors to cull free-ranging feral horses, under strict animal welfare protocols with expert equine veterinary oversight. This will complement the current bushfire recovery works that have removed more than 1,300 deer from fire impacted areas in eastern Victoria.
The longer-term program of trapping and rehoming of feral horses will continue. You can read about the rehoming process, and how to submit an expression of interest at www.parks.vic.gov.au/get-into-nature/conservation-and-science/conserving-our-parks/feral-animals
Quotes attributable to Daniel McLaughlin, Regional Director Northern Victoria, Parks Victoria:
“The 2019-20 Victorian bushfires were not normal. The scale and impact of these fires on our protected areas are unprecedented, and we need to mobilise efforts across government and the community to protect what remains and give Victoria’s native plants, animals and ecosystems the best chance of survival.”
“Parks Victoria is authorised by the National Parks Act 1975 to control exotic fauna and to efficiently remove feral horses from high-conservation priority locations. Parks Victoria will also be moving to targeted ground shooting of free-ranging feral horses to control ongoing environmental damage occurring in high conservation value areas in the Victorian alps.”
Quotes attributable to Dr Mark Norman, Chief Conservation Scientist, Parks Victoria:
“Parks Victoria welcomes the decision of the Federal Court which recognises our obligations to protect and preserve Victoria’s native species and habitats in protected areas.”
“The Victorian alps is home to species that occur nowhere else in the world. They’ve evolved over millions of years and they’re not adapted to the pressures of half-tonne hard-hooved animals such as horses and deer, which cause so much damage to vegetation, waterways and other habitats. Our native wildlife and plants need help - they have nowhere else to go.”