Hopes barrier fence will keep Esperance emus at bay

Zach RelphCountryman
Mt Burdett grain grower Chris Reichstein, pictured last November, hopes the State Barrier Fence extension will protect crops from emus.
Camera IconMt Burdett grain grower Chris Reichstein, pictured last November, hopes the State Barrier Fence extension will protect crops from emus. Credit: Corrina Ridgway

Grain growers surrounding Esperance are hopeful the development of a 660km pest-proof fence will protect the region from fast-running emus trampling crops.

Construction of the $11 million State Barrier Fence’s Esperance extension is expected to start next month, after WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson gave the green light to the project’s environmental approval on April 15.

It is set to extend the State Barrier Fence from its end-point 25km east of Ravensthorpe, north around Salmon Gums and terminate east of Esperance, near Cape Arid National Park.

While the region’s sheep producers are anticipating the project to protect flocks from savage wild dog attacks, Mt Burdett grain grower Chris Reichstein is hopeful it will safeguard precious crops from emus.

The fence will be erected about 200m from the north-eastern boundary of Mr Reichstein’s 4600ha property, based about 55km north-east of Esperance, in adjacent bushland known to home the tall-standing birds.

The planned State Barrier Fence Extension, near Esperance.
Camera IconThe planned State Barrier Fence Extension, near Esperance. Credit: John Henderson

Mr Reichstein — who grows wheat, barley and canola — said the infrastructure would bolster emu control once completed.

“Emus are the main vermin problem we have in our cropping country,” he said.

“They run through crops which are often near maturity and the shape of their feet causes a lot of damage.”

Condingup-Beaumont farmer Lyndon Mickel was forced out of the sheep trade by wild dogs about 12 years ago. He now grows only grain, and emus have emerged as a threat to his crops.

Mr Mickel said the fence extension would not only protect his grain operation, but also provide the chance to re-enter the sheep industry.

“Emus have such a large footprint that they crush a lot of crop and when it goes down, it doesn’t come back up,” he said.

“The fence will play a major role in stopping the influx of emus coming out of crown land.

“It also brings the possibility of putting livestock back into the equation.”

Scott Wandel, a grain grower and cattle farmer at Mt Ridley about 75km north-east of Esperance, has already built a fence surrounding his property perimeter to block emu invasions.

Mr Wandel said the State Barrier Fence extension would aid farmers’ efforts to manage emu and kangaroo populations.

“It’ll have a big impact,” he said.

“Once it does go up, hopefully it’ll help us control the kangaroos on the inside of the fence — they’re known to chew on crops.”

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud committed $1 million to the State Barrier Fence’s Esperance extension while in Ravensthorpe in March.

The announcement was followed by another Federal Government boost last month when $955,982 was directed to the Shire of Esperance to bridge a funding shortfall, ensuring the $11 million was fully funded.

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