Diversity on the cards for Nalbarra

25 Apr, 2015 01:00 AM
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They are not just affecting the stock up here, they are also attacking the native wildlife

TIMES have been tough for ex-banana growers, John and Karen Wainwright, since they made the move to Nalbarra station.

Station life comes with its challenges - but if a drought and wild dogs weren't enough, the Wainwrights said they are also still feeling the impact of the 2011 live export ban and the introduction of the Export Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS).

Situated 70 kilometres north of Paynes Find, the 161,000 hectare meat sheep station has now turned to tourism to generate more income.

John said the live export ban didn't just affect pastoralists in the far north of WA or the Northern Territory.

He said after being unable to move their sheep into the live export market, they joined the mass class action compensation claim against the Commonwealth over the former Labor government's damaging temporary live cattle export suspension in June 2011.

"We had 1000 rams in the yard ready to go (for export), but there was nothing we could do - they had shut it (live export) all down," John said.

"So like the other pastoralists, we put a claim in.

"They tell us it's moving along quite well.

"We were getting a good price before, but it's only just getting back to those levels now.

"We started to get on top of the dogs and building up our numbers and then we had the ban, so we had no income.

"We pulled our rams out, because we couldn't sell anything and they were like sitting ducks for the dogs."

As the station was not making an income, John was forced off-station to drive trucks for two years.

In the meantime, Karen polished up the unused shearers' quarters to suit tourists looking for station stays.

Karen took to the tools and converted the quarters into family, double and single rooms with a communal self-contained kitchen, barbecue area and space for caravans and tents.

"I was here on my own, so I had to do something," Karen said.

"It was John's idea. I was hesitant at first, but in the end it helps pay the bills.

"It took me about six months to get it up to scratch.

"I renovated everything, the bathrooms, the rooms, the yard - it was a big job.

"Now we have people come and stay here. They look at the sights or they come up for group activities and events."

John is now back on the station full time, and spends most days trying to control the dogs.

"I have caught over six dogs in traps in the last few months," he said.

"I have got them over in the top east corner of the station, and I have been baiting too."

He believes they have about 4000 ewes on the station and aims to build up the flock numbers.

He said with the help of a dogger they have been trapping and baiting the wild dogs that have caused a lot of flock loss over the last three years.

"It hasn't helped that the pastoral leases behind us are run by the government," John said.

"The dogs seem to be breeding up there and moving onto our station.

"We had a mallee fowl nest on the property, which is a protected species, but one day the nest was empty and there were feathers nearby and dog tracks around the nest.

"They are not just affecting the stock up here, they are also attacking the native wildlife."

John spends approximately 10-15 minutes setting up each trap, to make it as invisible as possible to the dogs.

"The younger dogs are easier to trap and bait," he said.

"But the older ones get cunning, if they have set off a trap before they are more aware of it.

"If the poison gets diluted from the rain, and they eat it, it will make them sick, but not kill them - so they learn not to eat it.

"So we need to be vigilant. We need to do everything we can - doggers and pastoralists - we need to use all the tools we can."

John said he has adopted many 'alternative' methods to try catch the "cunning dogs".

"My dog Ben has helped me catch the last five dogs," he said.

"I have taken him out with me setting up traps.

"I get him to 'mark his territory' in the spot I want - then when the wild dog returns to that spot, the scent of a strange dog must confuse them and they end up in the trap."

Like many other stations in the area, Nalbarra is currently on the market.

"It was always my intention to end up working a station," John said.

"And seven years ago, we decided to come here to semi-retire.

"But, for the right price, we will sell."

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