Counting wild dog costs

28 Apr, 2014 09:00 AM
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The psychological stress suffered by people with direct experience with wild dogs is significant

A NEW report released today into the impact of wild dogs on Australian agriculture has found investing in wild dog management strategies delivered significant potential returns both economically and socially.

The report, An integrated assessment of the impact of wild dogs in Australia, prepared by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES), examined three case-study areas - in south western Queensland, eastern Victoria and South Australia arid lands – and looked at both the market and non-market impacts of wild dogs.

It evaluated the returns that wild dog management strategies must deliver in order to remain cost effective, and also highlighted at least three key factors to improve the management of wild dogs in Australia.

Firstly, it found there are likely to be benefits associated with government or industry bodies providing a coordination role.

The report states securing cooperation of all landholders, including private and government - the so called “nil tenure” approach - is central to the effective management of wild dogs.

Not surprisingly, the report also found the psychological stress suffered by people with direct experience with wild dogs is significant and comparable to that suffered by those experiencing other traumatic events.

Further, it found there may be a role for government to monitor the extent of this stress and ensure adequate support is available to those who need it.

And thirdly, the report states there may also be a role for government to invest directly in wild dog management to capture the non-market benefits identified in the study. The benefit–cost analyses show there are positive returns to current investments.

In a statement, ABARES chief scientist Kim Ritman said the report estimated the combined market and non-market costs associated with an increase in wild dog attacks in certain regions over 20 years, should management strategies not be applied.

In south western Queensland, for example, absence of wild dog management strategies could potentially cost the livestock market up to $54 million over 20 years – in an area that represents 23 per cent of the state’s sheep and 4 per cent of the state’s cattle.

“This study found that the non-market impacts of wild dogs in the south western Queensland case study could reach $344 million over 20 years if no action was taken to mitigate attacks,” Dr Ritman said.

“Understanding both the market and non-market implications of wild dog attacks will provide valuable support for governments and communities aiming to develop cost-effective management programs.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said the challenge facing government was to implement policies and programs that support coordinated wild dog management, but to do it in a way that does not compromise investments that farmers have already made in local wild dog control.

“We know that strong leadership and a coordinated on-the-ground effort is required,” Minister Joyce said.

He said the federal government would continue working with state and territory governments, industry groups and research bodies to help farmers combat the wild dog problem.

“While the report paints a dire picture of the scale the wild dog problem, it also provides us with a strong platform to devise better strategies to tackle this issue,” he said.

“The Coalition recognises the seriousness of this problem for many farming communities which is why we provided $10 million for pest management – including wild dogs – as part of the drought package to assist affected farmers at this time of difficulty,” Minister Joyce said today.

The report is available here.

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