$1 million inches fence extension closer
A political war of words continues over the 660km extension of the State Barrier Fence near Esperance, but farmers don’t care, as long as someone pays for it.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud announced a $1 million funding boost for the fence extension while touring farms with The Nationals WA, farmers and media today.
It brings the project within stone’s throw of its $11 million target, with $9.5 million in funding so far including $6.5 million from the State Government, $1.5 million from the Shire of Esperance, $280,000 from the Shire of Ravensthorpe and now $1.5 million from the Federal Government.
WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan was quick to critique her Federal counterpart’s funding commitment, saying the $1.5 million shortfall should be named in Mr Littleproud and O’Connor MP Rick Wilson’s honour as the “Wilson-Littleproud gap”.
“For almost two years we have been calling for the Federal Government to stump up its fair share for this project,” Ms MacTiernan said.
“While we welcome this contribution to the project, it’s not enough.
“We will continue to consider the best option to fill the remaining $1.5 million funding gap - which should be called the Wilson-Littleproud gap.”
The State Government claims it will cost $11 million to complete what has been pegged the ‘Esperance fence extension’, which involves adding a further 660km to the 1170km fence to protect farms at Ravensthorpe, Salmon Gums, Cascade and Esperance from feral animals, namely wild dogs.
The project has become a political football, with Ms MacTiernan saying the Commonwealth should cough up funds while Mr Littleproud says pests, including wild dogs, are a state issue.
Cascade farmer and Esperance Biosecurity chairman Scott Pickering welcomed the Federal funding boost, saying the project had been 19 years in the making.
He believes the project will come in “under budget” and said the issue was a long-standing “political football” that “just needs money”.
“We are getting closer, we are 90 per cent there now so hopefully we can start the project soon,” Mr Pickering said.
Attracting an additional $1.5 million is just one of the project’s hurdles.
It also needs to clear environmental approvals, with two appeals now sitting with the Environmental Protection Authority.
In June, Ms MacTiernan told Countryman no work would start on the project under the Federal Government committed funds.
But today, she said work was under way to make sure the project was “ready to hit the ground running, as soon as environmental approvals are in place”.
More in next week’s Countryman.
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