The NSW government is currently promoting a significant increase in horse riding in national parks and is greatly extending the areas where horse riding is allowed, including within wilderness areas and nature reserves. The plan is laid out in their “Strategic Directions for Horse Riding in NSW National Parks”. NPA opposes this decision to expand horse riding in NSW national parks and reserves.
What’s wrong with horse riding in national parks and nature reserves?
Unfortunately, horse rising in national parks poses a number of significant risks to the environment, and has a higher impact overall than other activities such as hiking.
Horses can spread weeds on their coat and in their dung, and can damage vegetation by trampling and grazing. Their hooves, which are hard and small relative to their body weight, can cause significant damage to trails and stream banks. The Australian environment is not adapted to these sorts of pressures, because kangaroos and other native wildlife have softer feet than horses.
Horse riding is particularly inappropriate in nature reserves. These are areas managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service that have the highest conservation status (even higher than national parks), because of their important conservation values. Their main purpose is to protect outstanding conservation values and enable scientific research. Public visitation is supposed to be carefully managed to protect the nature reserve, and only limited visitor facilities are provided.
For a more detailed discussion of the impacts of horse riding in national parks and nature reserves, including detailed references to the scientific literature, see NPA’s submission on the draft Strategic Directions for Horse Riding in NSW National Parks. Another useful resource is this literature review produced for the Queensland government in 2008 by respected ecologist Dr Catherine Pickering.
Horse riding in wilderness areas
As part of the government’s strategic directions, they are introducing two year trials of horse riding in five declared wilderness areas, with the potential to expand horse riding into many more after this.
Wilderness areas are some of the largest and most pristine areas left in NSW. Almost all declared wilderness areas fall within existing national parks and nature reserves. Under the Wilderness Act 1987, the natural, unmodified state of a wilderness area must be preserved and the area must be allowed to evolve in the absence of significant human interference.
The Wilderness Act also states that wilderness areas should permit opportunities for solitude and appropriate self-reliant recreation. By introducing horse riding in wilderness areas, the government is stretching the definition of “self-reliant recreation” to include horse riding, in direct contradiction to its previous stance that horse riding is not self-reliant, and by doing so is putting these precious areas at risk from weed invasion and degradation.
Have your say
The Wild Horse Management Plan for Kosciuszko National Park is currently being reviewed and the public's input is being sought to help shape the new plan. You can have your say about the new plan at https://engage.environment.nsw.gov.au/protectsnowies
Details on how to lodge a submission to stop horse riding in national parks can be accessed at: