Sheep back on cards if wild dog fence erected

Zach Relph and Josh ChiatCountryman
Mt Monger Station owner Brendan Jones’ flock was decimated by wild dogs, with the pastoral lease no longer holding sheep.
Camera IconMt Monger Station owner Brendan Jones’ flock was decimated by wild dogs, with the pastoral lease no longer holding sheep. Credit: Danella Bevis

Mt Monger Station was once home to one of the Goldfields’ premier sheep operations.

About 13 years ago it had a flock of more than 17,000 Merinos.

Today it has none.

The Brendan Jones-owned property about 60km east of Kalgoorlie-Boulder is one of many pastoral leases in the remote WA region forced out of the wool industry because of the increasing wild dog threat.

The savage pest was a primary reason the Jones family opted to abandon its wool enterprise.

“The attacks were constant,” Mr Jones said. “One day there would be a lot of sheep and the next day there would be less.”

Goldfields pastoralists have long lobbied for a canine-proof fence to protect Kalgoorlie-Boulder’s once fertile pastoral rangelands.

Mr Jones refused to rule out returning sheep to Mt Monger, which holds about 700 cattle, if the anticipated fence was erected.

In February, WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan visited Kalgoorlie-Boulder to announce the Kalgoorlie Pastoral Alliance would receive a $2 million State Government grant to fund the infrastructure.

The pledge, coupled with in-kind work from station owners, would see about 200km of the 950km-long ring of steel completed next year with construction starting once the summer heat has eased.

Once complete, the cluster-cell fence will protect 11 stations comprising 2.4 million hectares of pastoral land.

However, the KPA executive officer Ross Wood has estimated the fence’s total cost at $9 million.

Mr Wood said if additional funding was not sourced it could be years before station owners could rebuild the region’s sheep flock.

The pastoral consultant said he feared Goldfields pastoralists were set to “miss the boat” on flourishing sheep, lamb and wool prices if further funding was not committed. Ms MacTiernan said the State Government’s $2 million grant, about half of the $4.2 million initially applied for by the KPA, was a significant contribution and called on the group to lobby the Federal Government for more funding. “We are aware that the proponents will need to seek further funding,” she said.

In response, Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said pest and weed management are State governments’ responsibility.

“It is up to them to determine which projects are funded and where,” he said.

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