PGA keen to take a seat at dog table

27 Sep, 2014 02:00 AM
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I think we (WA) need a voice and I am committed to doing what I can

AS the wild dog issue becomes more and more painful for WA pastoralists, there is a concern that a lack of funding will not allow WA a seat at the table of a national group formed to address the problem across Australia.

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) has nominated Mt Magnet producer Ash Dowden, Challa station to represent the group on the National Wild Dog Action Plan Stakeholders Consultative Group (SCG), but say there is a lack funding to enable him to travel over east to attend meetings, if he is selected.

Mr Dowden said it was important to have WA's voice represented on the national body.

"I put my hand up to be involved because I think we (WA) need a voice and I am committed to doing what I can," Mr Dowden said.

“My biggest concern is that everything will happen in the Eastern States and we will get nothing over here, but we need to find the funds to be involved in it.”

PGA president Tony Seabrook said the SCG would sit under the National Wild Dog Implementation Committee, and would involve industry representatives from all States and feed into the national committee and give their suggestions as to what should happen.

Mr Seabrook said at this point in time they were looking at different avenues to find the funds to send Mr Dowden to represent the State.

"At this point, it is our belief that there is no funding for Mr Dowden to attend the meetings," Mr Seabrook said.

"Ash is dead keen to go, so we are looking for funding.

"We will continue to explore every avenue possible to bring focus on the issue, and that includes funding.

"If the (pastoral) industry was in better shape it would be able to look after itself, but it simply can't; it's not in that position."

Mr Dowden said the wild dog bounty trial currently underway was having some success.

The trial, introduced by Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston in September last year, puts a $100 price on the scalps of wild dogs.

Mr Baston committed a total of $75,000 to the trial, which is due to run out in November, and Mr Dowden has high hopes it will continue.

Mr Dowden said the three most pressing issues for WA he wants to fight for as part of the SCG is keeping the bounty scheme, the vermin fence and doggers' funds.

"The bounty scheme finishes at the end of November, it will be assessed and a decision will then be made whether that will continue," Mr Dowden said.

"We have funding until June 30, 2016, from Royalties for Regions for the doggers.

“But that doesn't mean we take the foot off the pedal, because that's less than two years away; we want to make sure the State Government commits to continue the funding.”

"We have just been given the go ahead to use the unspent money that we were allocated, which was $266,000 annually – so instead of ending in June 2015, we have another year to spend the money that is left over."

Mr Dowden said he has met with The Nationals WA leader Terry Redman about the wild dog issues and funding for the Vermin Fence cell.

"Because the funding comes through the Mid West Development Commission, Mr Redman will be the Minister who takes it to Cabinet for approval," Mr Dowden said.

"But he said he is yet to be convinced that the project is worthy of his support.

"Mr Baston is supportive, industry has put skin in the game, and pastoralists have said they will pay half of the total cost of building the fence; over a 20-year period, the Shires want it and have put $1m into it. Not one pastoralist doesn't want it, yet Mr Redman said he still isn't convinced."

Mr Redman said the State Government was currently in discussions on the issue.

"Currently, the Murchison Regional Vermin Council has requested $4.5m to construct 480km of fence to surround over 60 (53 privately held) stations in the Murchison and create a large 'cell', where intensive control measures may lead to a 'dog-free' zone," Mr Redman said.

Mr Redman said to date, the Shire of Mount Magnet (as lead for the Murchison Regional Vermin Council) has been in discussions with the Mid West Development Commission in the development of this proposal.

He said the business case for this proposal had not been presented to him because there are a number of critical project governance and implementation issues the Shire of Mount Magnet and pastoralists need to address before this can be considered formally.

The issue isn't isolated to the Murchison area, it is spread across WA, from the Pilbara across to the Gascoyne.

"It comes down to how much money the Federal and State Government has, but we need more support on the ground," Mr Dowden said.

"The vermin cell is a big thing for us, as we haven't got it approved yet.

“As a WA delegate I would push for more funding coming to WA, and I would like to see more research done on the poisons and the new types of poisons.”

As far as the Vermin Fence is concerned, it is a long way off being complete across WA.

So far, in the Yilgarn region, the 170 kilometre fence will extend south of Koolyanobbing and east of Southern Cross and is hoped to be finished by Christmas.

About 820km of fence was reinforced last year and further on-going maintenance will keep it functioning into the future.

"Addressing the wild dog problem is a challenge across a massive area of WA and the State Government has provided funding support for a number of programs since 2008-09," Mr Redman said.

"Pastoralists in the Murchison have been concerned about wild dogs for several years and with the support of Royalties for Regions, have improved biosecurity measures with reconstruction of parts of the State Barrier Fence and the No.1 and No.2 Vermin Fences."

Rosco Foukles Taylor, Yuin station in the Murchison, said he has 350 ewes left and will not be restocking unless something is done about the dogs.

According to Mr Foukles Taylor, either the lambs are killed or the ewes don't fall pregnant because of the stress.

"Yuin can run about 5000-7000 ewes," Mr Foukles Taylor said.

"This year we are letting the country recover and waiting to see what happens (with the dogs)."

Mr Foukles Taylor said he baits for eight hours a day and covers about 360km in three days and there seems to be at least 15 active spots with fresh tracks.

"If the dogs don't go, and things don't change, I don't know what will happen," Mr Foukles Taylor said.

"We need a barrier fence, so small stock can be viable again."

In the Carnarvon area the wild dog issue is also affecting herd and flock numbers.

Lachlan "Locky" McTaggart, Bidgemia station, is part of the Gascoyne Shire group that helps assist with the ever increasing amount of dogs in the area.

Mr McTaggart said WA needs more funding and more support as resources are limited.

"It's a funding issue," Mr McTagget said.

"The situation is serious, and it is getting worse.

"I would support any move to increase funding, into the areas to do what we are already doing."

FarmWeekly

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