Pastoralists welcome dog control funds

21 Aug, 2015 02:00 AM
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SOUTHERN Rangelands producers have welcome $1.13 million in federal funding allocated to the WA government to boost efforts to combat wild dogs.

The funding is designed to assist landholders conduct control activities, including fencing.

Pastoralist Ash Dowden, Challa station, who has been trying to protect the Southern Rangelands against wild dogs said it was fantastic news that the federal government had decided to allocate the funds.

"WA always seems to get left out, but this funding has specified earmarked for our dog control and fencing fits that criteria," he said.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said $1,133,219 would be spent to help WA producers lessen the significant financial and social burden of wild dogs.

"This funding will assist the WA government to engage landholders and increase effort and collaboration to combat wild dogs which can have a massive impact on producers' bottom lines," Mr Joyce said.

"The latest studies from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES), commissioned by Australian Wool Innovation, suggest livestock producers in WA spend about 32 days and more than $9000 per year on wild dog management.

"Those figures only take into account the direct costs of management efforts, like baiting, trapping, and so on. When you consider livestock losses, disease transmission and control costs, wild dogs were estimated in 2004 to cost our agricultural industries up to $66m per year nationally. The current costs could be significantly higher.''

Mr Joyce said the WA government was finalising a State-wide action plan and would consult with landholders, industry, government and community representatives on how best to allocate the resources.

"Farmers and pastoralists across WA consistently list wild dogs as a huge pressure on their productivity and profitability and this government is committed to helping address this issue," he said.

Mr Joyce said this funding complemented work already underway on combating wild dogs.

"The Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper will invest $50m for better tools and control methods against pest animals and weeds," Mr Joyce said.

"This funding is in addition to the $2.98m we have invested to implement the National Wild Dog Action Plan and the wild dog early alert warning system.

"This investment is essential to the long-term protection of the contribution that our livestock industries make to Australia - wool exports alone were worth $2.9 billion to the national economy in 2013-14.

"We will continue to back our producers and help strengthen returns at the farm gate."

Mr Dowden said he plans to discuss the funding allocation with WA Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston.

"I would be very disappointed if the funding didn't go into fencing," he said.

"I believe the federal government's intention is that this funding will go to the vermin cell fence.

"My understanding is that it is up to Mr Baston's department to release that funding.

"I will be making contact with Mr Baston, and I hope to catch up with him about that."

Mr Dowden and other pastoralists have been lobbying for State government assistance for funding to finish the vermin cell fence.

Under the project, 480 kilometres of dog proof fencing would be constructed between the existing State barrier fences - creating a vermin proof cell covering 7.5m hectares and surrounding 53 pastoral stations and nine reserves.

The cell would connect to the Number Two barrier fence south east of Meekatharra to the State Barrier Fence north-east of Mullewa.

Mr Dowden said while the funding wouldn't cover the full cost of fence, he hoped it could be combined with additional State government funding through the Royalties for Regions (RfR) program.

A business case has been in process for more than a year to gain access to the funding required to get a Murchison vermin cell fence project completed.

"If we are successful with the RfR funding we could add that to this funding," he said.

"We could make this work.

"We are truly committed. Once the fence is build we will be clearing out the dogs, as landholders and producers that's when the hard work will begin."

WA Liberal senator Dean Smith and Durack Liberal MP Melissa Price attended one of the bait days at Challa Station earlier this year and were pleased with the outcome of additional funding.

"This is tremendous news for WA livestock producers, especially for those pastoralists in the Murchison who have been struggling to obtain State financing for the completion of the Murchison Vermin Cell fence," Mr Smith said.

"Wild dogs are causing havoc for producers throughout the State, with stock losses due to wild dog attacks costing producers more than $7m annually, and forcing many pastoralists, especially in the Southern Rangelands, to destock."

Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston said industry was working towards a comprehensive plan to better respond to wild dogs in Western Australia.

“Wild dogs have a devastating impact on livestock and farm enterprises in pastoral areas and adjoining parts of the agricultural region,” Mr Baston said.

The recently formed steering committee for the Western Australian Wild Dog Action Plan is working on a comprehensive plan to co-ordinate and prioritise activities.

“After negotiations with the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, the State Government has secured $1.13 million, which will be committed to strategic wild dog control efforts,” the Minister said.

Mr Baston said the action plan, expected to be completed in November, would identify priority activities which would help determine where the funds would be most effective.

“Part of this process will include consultation with the range of stakeholders including landholders, industry, government and community representatives,” he said.

“I commend those involved in the group on their commitment towards finding a more strategic approach to combating wild dogs.”

The Minister said the wild dog issue was attracting considerable industry and government funding.

“I stress the need for co-ordination, industry leadership, prioritisation of effort and funding application to areas that will have the maximum impact,” he said.

Mr Baston added that a $100,000 component of the funds would be allocated as WA’s contribution towards implementation of the National Wild Dog Action Plan.

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