Dog report doesn¹t ease anger

25 Jun, 2003 10:00 PM

FARMERS¹ frustration and anger over the State Government¹s lack of commitment to the wild dog problem in the eastern agricultural region was unleashed at a meeting at Holt Rock last week.

More than 90 landholders from Westonia to Ravensthorpe turned out for the open-air meeting to call for a realistic government contribution to help with on-the-ground wild dog control.

Conservation and Land Management (CALM) and Agriculture Department representatives withstood a barrage of angry questioning over the lack of government funding for on-ground control, the low priority of the problem and the inefficiency of aerial baiting.

Farmers then outlined their ideas for addressing the problem.

The major aims were to retain the role of two doggers in the eastern region and for the department to ensure better job security for both men, particularly when CALM took over management of unallocated land on July 1 - previously administered by the Department of Land Administration (DOLA).

They emphasised that in any baiting program experienced people were required on the ground to direct where baits should go.

But they questioned the value of baiting, saying baits might have been successful in pastoral areas but they were not the answer in sheep country.

While farmers could not gain any commitment of extra funding, there was positive news from Agriculture Department animal pest project manager Barry Davies who said a trial was underway to upgrade 25km of the State Barrier Fence north of Mukinbudin to a dog-proof fence using electric wires and mesh on the lower half of the fence.

A second trial was to be carried out east of Hyden on fence constructed for emu control.

Declared Animal Group coordinator Ron Dawson was one of several to criticise the industry panel¹s wild dog report, saying it focused on the pastoral area and didn¹t seriously address agricultural land bordering unallocated crown land.

He urged farmers to make submissions to the wild dog control panel before the closing date on August 15 because farmers needed to have a strong voice on the issue.

The future of DAG was also uncertain, with Mr Davies saying it was initially funded by the Agriculture Protection Board for a three-year period and if proven successful would continue.

However, a shortfall in promised DOLA funds for DAG to employ a second dogger for a full year prompted the formation of the Eastern Districts Watchdog committee about two months ago to raise money.

Shires and landholders had contributed money at varying levels but contributions were seen as a stop-gap measure. The committee aimed to secure a better funding arrangement and administer activities in the eastern wheatbelt on behalf of DAG.

The group is hoping to meet with representatives from Lake Grace, Mt Marshall, Ravensthorpe, Narembeen, Westonia, Mukinbudin, Kulin and Kondinin shires to form a lobby group with shire backing and would push for some of the meeting recommendations.

Several shire representatives expressed reluctance at being asked to contribute money on a continuing basis.

Ravensthorpe farmer and WA Farmers Federation representative Andy Duncan said the Ravensthorpe shire was made up of 70pc unrateable crown land and it was unfair that ratepayers were being asked to contribute money to a problem that was emanating from government land.

Farmers at the meeting moved a motion asking for, ³the impediments to controlling declared animals (by doggers) on any CALM land to be removed².

An anomaly existed that allowed only the Agriculture Department employed dogger to control dogs on crown land but not the second dogger employed with DOLA/shire funds.

Other suggestions were:

p To impose an ongoing state vermin levy on sheep

p Increase CALM funding

p Ensure employed doggers have longevity of employment

p Seek funds from federal government and grower organisation such as Australian Wool Innovation

p Instigate farmer training programs.

There was a call for WA to lobby for regional registration of 1080 to ensure any restrictions arising from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority review did not impinge on the use of 1080 for baiting programs.

Farmers also lashed out at the $3 million granted by AWI to research dog baits saying it would have been better spent by employing doggers.



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