Constituent policy

Brumby’s ‘airy fairy’ repatriation policy says volunteers are removing wild horses from national parks

Volunteers who want to remove and reinstate more Australian wild horses in national parks are asking for more government support.

Last year the governments of New South Wales and Victoria passed plans to reduce feral horse numbers with a focus on homecoming and high animal welfare outcomes , as far as possible.

Volunteers eager to rehome the horses said their skills should be put to better use under the states’ latest plans.

They are asking for help in the form of funding or in-kind support that would allow them to take more horses into national parks.

“Re-homing paints an airy fairy picture”

Lynette Sutton founded and operates the brumby rescue group HOOFS2010 Incorporated on her 4 hectare property in Berrigan. Its paddocks are currently overcrowded with feral horses from all over Australia.

The organization relies on donations and volunteers who work to raise funds for the annual $35,000 feed bill, transportation, supplements, medical assistance, and training horses in domestic life.

Volunteers work to raise funds for an annual maintenance bill of $35,000 for wild horses. (ABC Goulburn Murray: Erin Somerville)

Horses are branded with the HOOFS2010 logo for easy identification, come with a flexible return policy and are not permitted to be bred.

Many continued successfully in loving homes and did well in equine competitions, but Ms Sutton admitted it was a labor of love, especially without government support.

“Rehousing paints a fairytale picture for most people who don’t understand what it entails or the cost it entails,” she said.

“It just makes the governments plan to eradicate horses socially acceptable.

“We’ve fine-tuned the work to be done, so give us the funding, give us the land and help us help them achieve their goal in a more humane way.”

A woman smiles and reaches out through a fence to a wild horse.
Volunteer Lindy Conn has loved brumbies ever since she saw her first mob in the wild. (ABC Goulburn Murray: Erin Somerville)

Ms Sutton has created a business plan to push for the creation of a larger sanctuary to help take more horses back into the wild.

Limited response to re-homing

A key part of Parks Victoria’s Wild Horse Action Plan 2021, released in November, was to maximize opportunities for the re-entry of captured horses, with an expression of interest process open to suitable applicants.

A close up of a dark brown horse with a blue eye
A wild horse on Mrs. Sutton’s property. (ABC Goulburn Murray: Erin Somerville)

Parks Victoria has received three Expressions of Interest since then, with each application accepting multiple horses.

The relocation process is scheduled for later in the year.

He also responded to a handful of inquiries from the general public.

Benambra Liberal MP Bill Tilley, whose electorate is pushing the Victorian high country, described the bureaucracy needed to reinstate wild horses as difficult, daunting and restrictive.

“We just can’t write a blank check, there needs to be a better collaborative approach,” he said.

A woman bends down and touches the nose of a small chestnut horse
HOOFS2010 Inc founder Lynette Sutton with a gelding named Merlin who is being broken in in hopes of being rehomed. (ABC Goulburn Murray: Erin Somerville)

No financing plan

Parks Victoria stressed that the relocation application process ensures suitability.

“Potential rehoming organizations or individuals must demonstrate their ability to house the horse and meet animal welfare standards,” a Parks Victoria spokesperson said.

New South Wales organizations and individuals may apply to the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service to reinstate wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park, but must demonstrate the skills, facilities and the resources needed to care for the animals.

NPWS rehousing requirements are being updated with advice from RSPCA NSW and animal welfare experts.

A crowd of horses runs in the snow across an open plain, with a stream behind them.
The NSW Government estimates that there are around 14,000 wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park. (ABC News: Jess Davis)

“There are no plans to provide financial support to organizations and individuals approved for the return of wild horses,” an NPWS spokesperson said.

“The NPWS wild horse return program is governed by strict criteria to ensure the welfare of the horses.”

Two women sit and watch bare paddocks under blue sky
Founder Lynette Sutton and volunteer Lindy Conn at Berrigan’s brumby sanctuary. (ABC Goulburn Murray: Erin Somerville)

The New South Wales government passed the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan in November to reduce the wild horse population in the park to 3,000 by 2027.

Parks Victoria’s plan will eliminate the entire brumby population from the Bogong High Plains and dramatically increase the annual rate of elimination of wild horses from the Eastern Alps.