$2.2m bid for vermin fence to revive wool sector

Exclusive, Zach RelphCountryman
The group has placed a $3 million price tag on clearing the land and constructing a 218km section of new fencing.
Camera IconThe group has placed a $3 million price tag on clearing the land and constructing a 218km section of new fencing. Credit: Western Trapping Supplies

Murchison and Mid West pastoralists are pressuring the Federal Government to cough up more than $2.2 million to underpin a 1400km anti-wild dog fence development tipped to reignite the region’s wool industry.

The massive Murchison Regional Vermin Council cell fence, set to encompass 6.53 million hectares and 52 pastoral leases once complete, has been long-touted as critical to safeguarding stations from savage canines which have decimated WA’s once-flourishing pastoral sheep trade.

The McGowan Government committed $550,000 to the boundary in 2017, while a $594,000 pledge was also made through the State and Federal Government co-funded Rangelands Cell Fencing Program initiative last February.

Both grants have been matched dollar-for-dollar by the MVRC.

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However, the group — a collaboration of the Cue, Sandstone, Meekatharra, Yalgoo and Mt Magnet shires — have placed a $3 million price tag on clearing the land and constructing a 218km section of new fencing to complete the project.

Proposed Murchison Regional Vermin Cell fence extension
Camera IconProposed Murchison Regional Vermin Cell fence extension

In a bid to generate funds, the Shire of Mt Magnet has applied for a $2.25 million injection through the third round of the Federal Government’s $641.6 million Building Better Regions Fund on behalf of the MVRC. It is hoped the money alongside a $156,000 commitment from the Mt Magnet, Cue and Yalgoo shires, a $60,000 in-kind contribution from pastoralists and the already received $594,000 will cover the cost of constructing the new fence-line.

Pastoralist and Shire of Mt Magnet president Jorgen Jensen, who runs Yoweragabbie station near the historic gold mining town, said the additional funds were needed to erect the fence on the southern rangeland’s harsh terrain.

“We are still waiting on extra funding because we don’t have quite enough money to completely finish that cell,” he said. “There is a significant amount of creek crossings and floodways we have to negotiate with this fence.”

The BBRF’s successful applications are expected to be announced within the next six months.

Mr Jensen and pastoralists set to be encompassed by the cell are placing hopes in the fence to act as an effective control measure in the war against wild dogs after the pest ravaged rangelands’ sheep flocks and forced many stations to abandon their wool enterprise.

Mr Jensen was forced to de-stock Yoweragabbie station, a 100,000ha lease which has a carrying capacity of about 7500 Merinos, and transition into livestock about five years ago.

Yoweragabbie station now carries about 200 red angus-droughtmaster cattle, alongside 400 goats.

Mr Jensen admitted it was gut-wrenching to miss out on last year’s record wool prices, trading at more than 2000¢/kg.

Mr Jensen, who has also diversified into carbon farming for an alternate revenue stream, said he had not given up on his aspirations to return to the sheep industry if the area’s wild dogs were mitigated.

“Once the fence is built, I would aim to bring sheep back within three years if doggers have managed to exterminate a lot of them,” he said.

“Sheep make smaller-scale stations in the southern rangelands viable.”

Last week, the MVRC engaged Grant Simpson Rural Fencing to realign and upgrade the 108km of existing fence for $368,000, while Mullewa Farm Supplies were also awarded the tender to supply the fencing materials for $454,579.50.

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