Gnaraloo Station concerns rise on Ningaloo Coast plan

Tom Zaunmayr and Zach RelphCountryman
Gnaraloo Station owner Paul Richardson.
Camera IconGnaraloo Station owner Paul Richardson. Credit: Stephen Scourfield

Lacklustre State Government feral animal control is being blamed for the return of foxes, rise in wild dog numbers and potential accidental livestock culls on a Ningaloo pastoral station.

Coastline north of Carnarvon previously controlled by pastoralists was excised by the State Government in 2015 to establish a 70,400sqkm coastal reserve jointly managed with traditional owners.

Gnaraloo Station owner Paul Richardson warned the proposed Ningaloo Coast draft management plan, set to preserve the region’s bush camping experience, would hinder the area’s pastoral goat operations.

Mr Richardson mustered more than 1000 goats across the lease adjacent to the Ningaloo Marine Park, about 150km north of Carnarvon, in November.

The pastoralist said tagged goats would be mistaken as wild and culled by Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions officials under the plan’s pest control.

“If they’re shooting, especially aerial shooting, how can they see stock that is tagged and not tagged,” Mr Richardson said.

“You can’t see an ear-tag from a helicopter.”

Mr Richardson processes his goats at Beaufort River Meats.

The WA abattoir’s goat prices rose 90¢ last month to about 800¢/kg as goatmeat value continued to surge.

A DBCA spokeswoman said goat shooting could be implemented in areas where mustering was unviable.

“Where mustering is not a viable option due to terrain or low numbers of goats, then aerial or ground shoots may be carried out on DBCA managed tenure,” she said.

For turtle conservation efforts at Cape Farquhar and Gnaraloo Bay, the return of foxes is cause for concern.

Animal Pest Management Services managing director Mike Butcher said fox and dog numbers at Gnaraloo Station had increased fivefold since the State Government took over.

“There hadn’t been any fox predation for seven years, and wild dogs were more a case of you’d get the odd dog rather than higher numbers that there currently are today,” he said.

“Paul is doing what he can, but the problem is the coastal strip where the water and the rabbits are.

“Foxes and wild dogs are just migrating across to this ecological sink where there is perfect habitat for them.”

Mr Butcher said a reduction in baiting had led to increased dog and fox numbers.

In a submission to the Ningaloo Coast draft management plan, Gnaraloo Wilderness Foundation echoed concerns feral predation on turtle nests was on the rise.

Public comment on the draft plan closed on May 14.

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