Fence funding fight continues

25 Apr, 2015 02:00 AM
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WA industry groups, the Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) and the Meekatharra Rangelands Biosecurity Association are disappointed with a lack of political support for plans to extend the wild dog fence.

The PGA this week refuted claims by Regional Development and Lands Minister Terry Redman of support to help fund the Murchison cell fence and called on the government to take the issue seriously.

In a statement to Farm Weekly last week, Mr Redman said that he had made it clear to pastoralists via the PGA that if pastoralists could come up with half of the funding required to get a project to complete the Murchison vermin cell off the ground, that would strengthen their business case.

But PGA vice president and pastoral committee chairwoman Ellen Rowe said the PGA would never agree to such an offer.

"Mr Redman's statement is not factual, and there is no way that the PGA would ever agree with such a proposal that would be detrimental to our members and the pastoral industry," Ms Rowe said.

"Aside from offering our support in principle to the cell fence project due to it being in the best interest of the pastoral industry, the PGA has no direct involvement in the business case or in any operational details, including informing pastoralists of any decisions or comments or directives coming from the Mid West Development Commission or the Regional Development Minister.

"The PGA is disappointed in Mr Redman's comments and encourages him to address his comments (Farm Weekly, April 16) and decisions directly to the authors of the business case.

"Wild dog control is a serious issue for pastoralists throughout the rangelands, and any project that will assist in controlling wild dog numbers and in restoring the viability of small-stock pastoral stations should be treated seriously by the government and given its full support. What the pastoral industry needs is certainty not confusion."

Mr Redman's spokesperson said the co-funding possibility was discussed at a meeting last October, but no agreement had been made.

The Meekatharra Rangelands Biosecurity Association, an industry body with pastoralist members in the Yalgoo, Mount Magnet, Cue and Meekatharra shires, said it was also disappointed with the lack of WA Nationals' support for the cell.

MRBA chairman Ashley Dowden said pastoralists were committed to addressing the wild dog problem and doing their best by producing and laying baits and implementing other year-round methods such as trapping.

He believes to control the wild dogs, a multi-pronged approach is required including the completion of the Murchison Region Vermin Cell.

"Unfortunately the Nationals are not committed and their leader appears hellbent on blocking the construction of the final 380 kilometres of vermin fence, which would enclose some 55 pastoral properties and effectively shut the dogs out," Mr Dowden said.

The association said over the past five years wild dogs had decimated sheep and goat numbers in the Murchison and forced many pastoralists out of the industry.

It would cost an estimated $4.5 million to construct the cell, which has been under State Government consideration for more than two years as a potential Royalties for Regions project.

Over the past three years, $2.6m in Royalties for Regions funding has been spent on upgrading the No 1 Vermin Fence and extending the No 2 Vermin Fence west by 100km - which are integral parts of the Murchison cell.

The association said the local government has agreed to contribute $266,000 to the project to close the last gap in the fence.

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