Calls for Oakajee to keep the dogs out

Claire TyrrellCountryman

Oakajee Port and Rail (OPR) is facing pressure from Murchison pastoralists to construct a dog proof fence along its rail line.

Mount Magnet Shire councillor and chairman of the Meekatharra Rangelands Biosecurity Association, Ashley Dowden, raised the issue at the Cue Parliament session on May 6.

Mr Dowden asked OPR project and operations director Jim Netterfield if the company would upgrade the fence around Oakajee to dog proof standards.

Mr Netterfield said no commitments could be made before funding for the Oakajee project was secured.

OPR, a joint venture between Murchison Metals and Chinese-owned Mitsubishi, is planning a $6 billion infrastructure project to support Mid West iron ore producers.

OPR plans to construct 570km of heavy haulage line from its proposed deepwater port to Weld Range and Jack Hills mines.

Company regional manager Peter Spalding said the Department of Environment and Conservation had certain requirements in regard to fencing specifications and OPR could not make policy decisions about a dog fence.

He said that was a matter for the State.

Mr Spalding said OPR’s current thinking was to build a fence to Main Roads’ specifications in freehold areas and to pastoral specifications in the pastoral areas. This would be carried out in consultation with landholders.

He said OPR had been liaising with DEC, stakeholders, landholders and peak bodies about the impacts of the project.

Northern Country Zone president Moira Girando joined the push for a dog proof fence to be constructed along the line.

“If you are putting up a fence, you should build it to the optimum standard,” she said.

“For this area, that standard would be vermin proof. Oakajee says it wants to support the community and this is one way to do that.”

DEC would not comment about funding the fence, but said it did not oppose the use of fencing to manage pest species.

Funding the fence would be a key issue for OPR, as the consortium was battling to secure supply chain agreements from its major customers.

If OPR agreed to construct a dog proof fence along its line, this would theoretically create a dog proof cell between the rail line and the existing northern barrier fence. This barrier fence or ‘rabbit proof fence’ runs from Kalbarri to just past Morawa.

The Meekatharra Rangelands Biosecurity Association has been lobbying government to consider incorporating a dog proof fence in OPR’s environmental approval, expected by mid-2011.

Also seeking action on wild dogs, the Pastoralists and Graziers’ Association repeated calls this week for more funds in today’s State Budget to help stop the relentless attacks on landholder’s livelihoods.

“Attacks by wild dogs are increasing throughout the State, and the problem has been exacerbated by the lack of government funding to assist pastoralists with baiting programs and professional doggers,” PGA livestock executive officer Ian Randles said.

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