Commuters on Sydney's iconic Harbour Bridge got a shock today, when a man calmly trotted his horse through the morning traffic. Around 10 AM Thursday, the horseman, Glenn Morris, took off across the bridge—wearing an Akubra and Driza-Bone, of course.
The ride was in protest of new state government legislation, which will enable more clearing of native vegetation. "We need vegetation on farms to protect healthy soils and rivers," Morris told reporters. "Yet the state government plans to allow important native vegetation to be cleared more easily."
With his horse Hombre, Morris had travelled 600 kilometres from Invernell, his home in north-west NSW. "He's never seen a car road before, he's never seen a city as far as I know," Morris said of the horse. Save for a few touch-and-go moments though, Hombre seemed unfazed by it all.
Morris, who runs an organic beef farm, apologised to any commuters who he made late for work. "I'm sorry about that for anyone that was caught in the traffic," he told reporters. "But I just had a message to deliver which I think was important."
Specifically, the farmer's message was raising awareness of the role native plants play in keeping the land healthy, and how these new laws could have a negative impact. More broadly, Morris said he's "particularly concerned about climate change, which will wreak havoc on farming—as well as icons like the Great Barrier Reef... Yet there's a real lack of action from our leaders."
The clearing of native vegetation has been a hot button issue for farmers in recent years. In 2014, Queensland cleared 296,324 hectares of land, an area about the size of the Australian Capital Territory, causing around six percent of Australia's carbon emissions.
In that same year farmer Ian Turnbull murdered an environment compliance officer named Glen Turner, who had been investigating allegations that Turnbull had been illegally clearing land on his NSW property.
Turnbull was actually sentenced on Thursday, while Glenn Morris took his horseride across the Harbour Bridge, sent behind bars for 24 years over Turner's death. The court today heard that when alerted Turner on his land, Turnbull had tracked the environmental officer down and shot him with a hunting rifle.
Glenn Morris today told reporters he hadn't heard about the Turnbull case, and only wanted to raise awareness about changes to the Native Vegetation Act. Mike Baird's NSW state government has been pushing for changes to this Act, which would make it easier for farmers to clear their land.
"This is nothing less than attempting ecocide," Greens state MP Mehreen Faruqi wrote of the proposed changes in New Matilda. "The introduction of this Act saw an 88-fold decrease of felling, as well as preventing the deaths of thousands of native animals,"
Police spoke with farmer Glenn Morris today, after he exited the bridge; however, no charges were laid. Apparently, it's not illegal to ride your horse across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which is good to know.