Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

The NSW Environment Groups' Plan for Environment Protection and Restoration of Kosciuszko National Park

Kosciuszko is part of an international network of United Nation’s biosphere reserves and is one of only 167 world centres of biodiversity.

The Kosciuszko National Park – A Plan for Environment Protection and Restoration, provides a comprehensive answer to the park’s problems. The Plan was endorsed at the 2003 Nature Conservation Council of NSW Annual Conference, representing an endorsement of 130 NSW environment groups. (The detailed plan is available upon request at $5.00 per copy.)

In 2002, and again in 2004, an independent committee of Australia’s leading scientists reported that the Park’s outstanding values are at risk due to expanding development, increased visitor use, climate change and introduced plants and animals. Kosciuszko, NSW’s largest national park, has many problems: it is fragmented by roads, power lines, dams and resorts; and many interest groups seek to enjoy the area, regardless of the damage they do. Feral horses are poorly managed and their population is rapidly growing.

Wilderness, pipelines, ferals and fire

The Plan proposes an expanded suite of wilderness areas along the central spine of the park to protect biodiversity, enhance naturalness and sustain ecological integrity (see figure below). The detailed plan also indicates the location of the park’s wild rivers, including the Ingeegoodbee, Pinch, Goodradigbee and Goobarragandra Rivers. Aqueducts are flagged for removal in order to restore natural flows to the upper Snowy and Goodradigbee.

The Plan opposes the continued stocking of introduced, feral fish species into the Park's rivers, as recommended by the Independent Scientific Committee.

The Plan opposes proposals for yet more infrastructure in the park. The ACT Government is considering expansion of Canberra’s water supplies, instead of implementing effective water reuse and demand management strategies.

The Plan opposes ‘brumby running’ as a method of capturing feral horses, which is cruel and ineffective. In the north of the park, the ACT Government has built a fence along the NSW-ACT border to contain feral horses to NSW. The fence does nothing about the problem within the NSW parks. The NSW government needs to take effective action.

As a key management priority the Plan calls for pest species management to be applied to all pest species across the entire park. Pest control methods need to be effective and humane, and should include shooting feral horses.

The ACT Government is considering inappropriate proposals to reduce fire risk, such as establishing more roads and broad area burning in wilderness areas. Existing fire management practices in NSW, where naturalness is restored following wildfire is also under review. Hazard reduction burning, if not done sensibly and scientifically, can increase fuel loads and put the lives of fire fighters at risk. The best scientific advice states that alpine areas should never be deliberately burnt. The current practice of strategically protecting assets at the park boundary and managing fire risk to protect all park values elsewhere should continue.

Recreation and transport

National parks are primarily set aside for nature conservation and any recreation within them must be appropriate and have minimal, environmentally sustainable impact.

At least nine horse camping areas have damaged the park’s natural values, and horseriding continues in the Pilot and Byadbo wilderness areas. It is particularly critical to remove the horseriding camp beside Pinch River on the Barry Way as this camp is used to access the Tin Mines area in the Pilot Wilderness. The Plan recommends relocation of the National (horseriding) Trail off park. Protection of the sensitive alpine environments, such as Mount Tabletop from horseriding, is also proposed.

Visitors should not rely on hut accommodation, as Koscisuzko National Park is subject to sudden and extreme weather changes in any season. The huts destroyed in the 2003 bushfires within remote wilderness areas should not be rebuilt, as such replicas poorly present the lost cultural values, and reconstruction would be inconsistent with the Wilderness Act, 1987.

To contain vehicle impacts, the Plan calls for a public transport vision that would include upgrading and extending the ski tube to Jindabyne. Investment in bus transport to all major park destinations and camping areas is proposed.

Vehicle access should be confined to public roads suitable for all vehicles. To protect wildlife, roads should not be widened and the maximum speed on parks roads should be 80 km/h.

The Plan opposes downhill mountain bike riding using ski resort chairlifts and an increased downhill bike track network due to vegetation damage, erosion and threats to walkers.

A key action to securing the future for this vulnerable park is the management response to climate change. Colong rejects the current NSW government de facto policy of increasing resort use in the summer months, which risks a further spread of tourism impacts across the park. Major plans for increased snowmaking at the ski resorts and the recent introduction of cloud seeding will adversely impact on the park and must be rejected.

The Independent Scientific Committee has warned against the ecological impacts of artificial snowmaking. Kosciuszko National Park already suffers from a vast number of structures which are incompatible with the protection of natural values. Cloud seeding, which will manipulate the Park’s climate, requires the installation of many propane cylinders and burners across the western side of the park. Cloud Seeding has been banned in sensitive areas overseas due to its impacts on the environment. Its results have been questioned by independent bodies. Enough money and time has already been wasted on cloud seeding over the years and the scheme is predicted to increase the rain shadow over the Monaro Tableland, a fear which local graziers have already expressed.

All leases for the ski resorts should be terminated in 2030 when natural snow cover becomes insufficient for skiing. In the meantime, the ski resorts should be contained to existing lease boundaries and equivalent bed numbers; and their ecological footprint reduced. The isolated Charlotte Pass ski resort should be dismantled and removed upon expiry of its lease in 2015 and Cabramurra, a redundant Snowy Hydro Corporation village, should also be removed.