Draft plan calls for brumbies removal from Barmah National Park

By Sophie Baldwin

A NEW management plan is calling for the removal of brumbies from Barmah National Park and the banning of horse riding in the park.

The draft plan, developed by the Yorta Yorta people, identifies the wild horses as feral and would end more than a century of their presence in the forest.

The Draft Joint Management Plan will also see the use of burning for greater environmental outcomes, improved camping facilities and the introduction of booking fees, revitalisation of the Dharnya centre, the establishment of a cultural trail and the provision of an area on Top Island for Yorta Yorta gatherings and cultural practices.

The draft plan has angered Barmah Brumby Preservation Group president Murray Willaton who said the document completely disregarded the history of white settlement.

"Our belief is everyone's heritage should be respected equally and there is no sign of that in this plan whatsoever," Mr Willaton said.

He said the group's members were disappointed and confused as the plan differed from the draft strategic action plan released earlier in the year which stated the aim was a reduction in brumby numbers to 100 over four years with a revised plan to be developed in the final year.

"The other confusing part has been I have been talking to Yorta Yorta elders and locals over the past week and many had little knowledge of the plan," Mr Willaton said.

"It seems to me management decisions have been made which don't represent the beliefs of the Yorta Yorta." 

He also questioned the removal of horse riding in the park.

"I don't think either plan gives consideration to tourism. A lot of people come to Barmah to see the brumbies and ride horses themselves," Mr Willaton said.

"It will certainly affect the value of tourism in the area.

A spokesperson for Parks Victoria said the Draft Joint Management Plan was developed by the Yorta Yorta Traditional Owner Land Management Board (YYTOMB) and was currently open for community consultation.

Parks Victoria's Strategic Action Plan was developed to address priority threats to the floodplain marshes within Barmah National Park in May this year.

Parks Victoria said both plans were consistent and recommended total removal of horses.YYTOMB spokesperson Jade Miller said the Draft Joint Management Plan was a longer-term plan that set directions for all aspects of management across the whole of the park.

"There has been sharing of information in developing the two plans," Mr Miller said.

He said the draft plan would enhance and expand tourism and would share history through the proposed cultural and historical trail.

"A key strategy is to improve visitor access and wildlife viewing opportunities when the park is in flood and spectacular bird nesting and fish breeding occurs," he said.

"Allowing a growing feral horse population to remain in the national park as a tourism attraction is not sustainable due to the damage being caused."

He said all Yorta Yorta elders were provided with several briefings during development of the plan and it was passed by the Yorta Yorta Council of Elders.

Submissions for the draft plan close on October 6. Submissions can be sent in writing to executive officer, Yorta Yorta TOLM, PO Box 1363 Shepparton 3632, or via email to [email protected]