Speech at Rawsons Pass & presentation of certificates

The following speech marked the end of the Save Kosci walk at Rawsons Pass, Kosciuszko National Park, 8th December 2018.

Welcome to the final day of this amazing, entirely remarkable protest. Most protest marches make it round one city block. Everyone here - nearly 200 of us - will have walked at least 13 kilometres today, many 19 kilometres today or more. That is a measure of how strongly we want action on feral horse damage in Kosciuszko National Park.

Some people here have walked rather more than 19 kilometres – the ‘famous five’ full distance walkers who have walked all the way from Sydney. 560 kilometres over 36 days.  That is a measure of how strongly they want action on feral horse damage in Kosciuszko National Park.

On the walk from Sydney to Kosciuszko we have met many people. The vast majority have been friendly, and supportive of our aims. Families driving past have waved and truckies have tooted. Road workers have listened to our case and said ‘Good on you’. Cyclists have called out ‘Get rid of those horses for us’. We have talked with people at road side rest areas, in pubs and cafes, and have already gained nearly 1000 signatures on our petition. That is a measure of the willingness of Australians to support action on feral horse damage in Kosciuszko National Park.

Our experiences mirror the findings of the consultation process on wild horse management, run by the NSW government 2013-2016. That process found that:

  • A majority, after hearing all sides of the story, supported strong action on feral horse damage in Kosciuszko National park, and
  • A majority supported the need for a range of methods of controlling the spiraling horse numbers – including onsite culling.

Onsite culling is the hard question at the centre of this debate. The NSW government’s extensive and expensive consultation process up to 2016 found that ordinary Australians, faced with the facts, could take the difficult decision to support onsite culling. But the NSW government could not face the facts and has not taken that decision. They have dodged it and postponed it. That is a measure of the NSW government.

I mentioned earlier the ‘Famous Five’. I am now going to call them to the front, and introduce each of them to you. Andrew Cox, CEO of the Invasive Species Council, will present each of them with a certificate.

Firstly Marg Sharp and Alan Laird. A retired occupational therapist and a retired scientist. They have a particular interest in the humane treatment of animals, and are vegetarians. A very thoughtful couple, who weighed the evidence carefully before committing to this walk.

Paull Millgate, member of the Brisbane Waters Outdoors Club and just about every other outdoors club in Sydney. On the walk he was our most tireless sign-waver and one of our keenest road-side chatters. He is willing to talk to just about anyone about the ways that horses are damaging Kosciuszko National Park.

Tom Vaughan, a retired army officer from Brisbane. Affectionately known as Major Tom.  Tom came all the way from Brisbane to do the walk because he wants people to know that Kosciuszko National Park is a park for all Australians. He has seen first-hand, on army postings, the damage caused by feral animals in the Northern Territory, and on Moreton Island as well, and he wants to prevent further damage in Kosciuszko.

Donna Powell has had many connections with the Monaro region, through her work as a book keeper on a property near here, and in Jindabyne, and casual work in the Kosciuszko resorts. When she started the walk she was hesitant about her ability to complete the full distance, and did not label herself a full-distance walker. But she kept on going, day after day. When she reached Jindabyne, she decided to ‘come out’ as a full distance walker.

Before I finish I would like to add a special welcome to the members of the Northern Rivers Bushwalking Club who walked here from Victoria. When we changed the date from Sunday back to Saturday, because of the weather, they thought they would not get here in time. But they walked through half the night and made it.

Today is the end of the Save Kosci walk. We are handing the baton over to Reclaim Kosci, the umbrella organization that will continue this campaign. Please go to their web site to take action or make a donation. The 790,000 steps of the walk from Sydney to Kosciuszko are over, but we will continue taking steps to keep Kosciuszko as a Park, not a Paddock.

Linda Groom, Convenor, Save Kosci Inc

Speech at Rawsons Pass - the full distance walkers on the left
Speech at Rawsons Pass - the full distance walkers on the left