Anger over dog-proof fence delay

Rueben HaleThe West Australian
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Time is running out for Rangelands pastoralists as their flocks die and government drags its feet.

State Treasury has been blamed for delaying $4.8 million required to complete a fence to enclose 51 pastoral properties in the area, under attack from wild dogs.

The Murchison Regional Vermin Council, consisting of representatives from Mt Magnet, Sandstone, Yalgoo and Cue shires, has been charged withoverseeing the construction of 640km of fence, which will add to more than 900km State Barrier Fence to form an enclosed vermin cell where dogs could be eradicated.

Stock losses in the area are estimated to have cost sheep and goat producers in the region about $14 million over the past two years.

Meekatharra Rangelands Biosecurity Association chairman Ashley Dowden said the funding delays could blow out the expected fence completion by a year to mid-2018, by which time the area would be decimated by wild dogs.

"At present we have only 51 pastoralists remaining in the cell, with only 10 still running a stock at about 15 to 20 per cent capacity," he said.

"Native animals and Aboriginal industry is also at risk, with kangaroos, emus, hopping mice, brush-tailed bettong at risk of wipe-out.

"So this will not just be a devastating result for pastoralists, but also for native wildlife and the Aboriginal emu egg industry if this is allowed to occur."

Mr Dowden said the MRVC had become frustrated by seeming unwillingness of Treasury to release the funds to build the last 380km of fence and close the cell.

"We're waiting for the money before we can start the survey and clearing for the section," he said

"If with don't get the next section signed off by the end of October 2104 it will delay the completion of the project to 2018.

"If we got the go ahead now it would possible to complete the fence with 18 months to two years, with clearing, grading and construction crews working at the same time on the fence."

Mr Dowden also said the State Government needed to increase its efforts to eradicate wild dogs trapped in the cell after it is closed.

"As well as the need to complete the fence more quickly, the trapping and baiting program needs to be bolstered," he said.

"We need at least five doggers in the vermin cell continuously baiting.

"The Government needs to allocate extra money to eradicate pests inside the cell when the fence is completed."

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