Horse shooting slapped down

Horse shooting slapped down

A plan by the Victorian Government to shoot wild horses in the Alpine National Park has been slapped down by a majority vote of councillors at last week’s East Gippsland Shire Council meeting.
The meeting, held in Swifts Creek, saw an urgent business item added to the council meeting agenda by High Country councillor, Sonia Buckley.
Cr Buckley moved a motion that council writes to the Minister for Environment, Lily D’Ambrosio, “to express council’s objection to helicopter shooting and ground shooting of wild horses in East Gippsland” and request a meeting to discuss the feral horse action plan and the long term management and extraction of wild horses from National Parks in the shire.
The motion also requested “that the Draft Feral Action Plan 2021 be put on hold until the matter is discussed and rectified”.
After some debate, the motion, when put to the vote, was passed by the majority 5-4, with mayor, Cr Mendy Urie, deputy mayor, Mark Reeves, and councillors Tom Crook and Jane Greacen opposing it.
Earlier, Cr Buckley backgrounded the councillors that Parks Victoria is updating its “action plan for feral horse management in the Alpine National Park”.
The urgent business item explained that feral horse management is part of an integrated approach to protecting sensitive environmental values.
A (Draft) Feral Horse Action Plan 2021 was prepared by the State Goverment to provide the opportunity for consultation with community and stakeholders to review and provide feedback and input.
The consultation process started on March 26, 2021, and closed on April 23, 2021.
It’s understood a final action plan regarding the High Country brumbies is due mid year.
“Given that the consultation process and date has passed and the release of the final action plan is imminent, the reason for my request to raise this item about feral horse management as urgent business is that I submit the shooting of feral horses is inhumane,” Cr Buckley said in her address to councillors.
Cr Buckley also argued shooting the horses and leaving their carcasses on the forest floor causes negative impacts by providing “meat for feral pests which in turn creates a population explosion in pigs and wild dogs”.
“Pigs cause the most environmental damage to the landscape,” Cr Buckley said.
“I do not support helicopter shooting of wild horses, known as brumbies, in East Gippsland and strongly support the extraction process by using locally employed contractors for long term management,” she said.
Cr Crook and Cr Reeves tried to prevent Cr Buckley introducing the motion as urgent business.
“I had no warning this was coming before us,” Cr Crook said.
Cr Greacen also opposed the motion contending “I do want a lot more information before I consider this issue and there hasn’t been sufficient time”.
Cr Trevor Stow told the chamber he believed the council needed to consider the matter in a formal forum and “this is our opportunity to do that”.
Cr John White seconded Cr Buckley’s motion telling the chamber that he was concerned that “the system that is about to be put in place is inhumane”.
“I think it will put our government, and our department, and ourselves, in a really bad light when we see, perhaps, somebody does a documentary on the shooting or maiming of horses from helicopters where I don’t believe they will get a clean kill every time,” he said.
In opposing the motion, Cr Crook claimed that native species habitat was being “systematically destroyed by wild horses”.
“We have no option but to shoot the animals where they lie,” he said.
Cr Stow, who supported Cr Buckley’s motion, said rounding up the horses and attempting to re-home them was a better option then leaving their carcasses lying around “where they can be predated upon”.
Cr Reeves in opposing the motion, said “horses are not a natural part of the Australian environment”.
“It’s not an easy decision around eradication and I find that hard,” he said.
Cr Reeves said he didn’t think that council should be weighing in on the issue, that it was a State Government matter and it was “fraught for us to form an opinion on this matter”.
Cr Kirsten van Diggele, in supporting Cr Buckley’s motion, said she was opposed to helicopter shooting and the motion provided “an opportunity to consult” with the High Country community and other East Gippslanders.
Cr Greacen said “killing animals is always an issue for me” but failed to support the motion.
Cr Buckley, who is a fifth generation mountain woman, said the brumbies “are descendants that carried our soldiers through wars, we deserve to treat them better”.
“They are part of our history, part of our culture, not only should the brumbies be heritage listed but so should the mountain men and women whose culture represents the management and skills since settlement,” Cr Buckley told the Advertiser.
“We can pontificate all we like about what is right and what is wrong, but what we want to see in our communities is community agency, stakeholder management, stakeholder rangers who have long term management to deal with these issues.”
Cr Buckley said that government policy coming from city centric places, “was potentially well meaning, but unfortunately not hitting the mark”.
The State Member for Benambra, Bill Tilley, told the Advertiser the brumbies were “a part of the High Country whether we like it or not”.
“They are part of the flora and fauna,” Mr Tilley said.
“They have been with us for the best part of White Settlement.
“Aerial and ground shooting is not the way to control or manage our wild brumbies.”
Mr Tilley believes maintaining a balanced number of brumbies in the Alpine National Park and other areas is the right approach.
“We’re environmentalists and conservationists and we want to be given a go to manage it,” Mr Tilley said.

IMAGE: East Gippsland Shire Councillor, Sonia Buckley, successfully moved an urgent business motion that council writes to the Minister for Environment, Lily D’Ambrosio, to express council’s objection to shooting wild horses in East Gippsland.


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