By Max Davies
Brumby activist across Victoria are calling for a change, with the State Government intending to eradicate hundreds of wild horses in the Alpine and Barmah national parks.
About 500 brumbies currently live in the Barmah Forest, with a government tender approving the eradication of about 400 from the area, with similar plans prepared for brumby populations in Victoria’s high country.
The plans were authorised by Parks Victoria and Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio in conjunction with the State Government, as well as approved by the RSPCA.
Activist Renee Neubauer said the plans would not bring the improvements to the environment as claimed.
“Twelve years ago [authorities] removed wild cattle populations from Barmah and there’s been almost no improvement in forest conditions,” she said.
“We don’t see how removing the horses that have been there for the last 200 years would drastically improve everything.”
Ms Neubauer was part of a peaceful rally outside Ms D’Ambrosio’s electorate office in Mill Park in December, featured in the Whittlesea Review.
Since then, several similar rallies have aimed to draw the attention of Ms D’Ambrosio and the government, including a major protest outside parliament on Wednesday.
Ms Neubauer, along with other groups and individuals, has been unsuccessful in contacting Ms D’Ambrosio on all occasions, with the minister not present at her Mill Park office.
Neither Ms D’Ambrosio nor the State Government responded to the Review’s request for comment by deadline.
Ms Neubauer said brumby groups were calling for a range of changes to the government’s handling of the issue.
“We would like to see some attempt made to talk with locals, people willing to rehome the horses, and brumby groups for a better solution,” she said.
“We’d also like to see more transparency on how they count the horse populations, as well as greater honesty regarding the exaggeration of damages that the horses cause to the environment.”
Under the plans, shooters would work covertly to shoot wild horses in the Victoria’s high country and Barmah State Forest. Hunting dogs would then be used to locate wounded brumbies, and chainsaws would be used to remove the carcasses from public view.
Last week, a Brumby group in Barmah found 25 horses had already been shot in the Barmah forest. Neither Parks Victoria nor the State Government has revealed who is responsible for the shootings.
Ms Neubauer said she would continue to make weekly visits to either Ms D’Ambrosio’s electorate office in Mill Park or her ministerial office in East Melbourne in an attempt to speak with the minister in the lead up to the state election.
“Anyone who wants to join on the weekly visit is more than welcome,” Ms Neubauer said.
“It’s a big call for this state to just say to eradicate any animal and the more people involved the better.
“There’s no kind of legislation offering any public consultation at the moment, and we would like to see a stop to these kinds of plans for animals in the future.”