Push to revive the WA stock squad

Zach RelphCountryman
Challa Station owner Ashley Dowden.
Camera IconChalla Station owner Ashley Dowden. Credit: Debbie Dowden

Calls to revive an abandoned stock squad are mounting ahead of a pastoral convention, with outback producers saying the specialised unit is critical to reducing cattle thefts from WA stations.

Pastoralists have been mustering support for the dedicated stock squad, a livestock police unit disbanded by the former Carpenter government in 2008, to be reinstated to combat the impact of livestock thefts.

Challa Station owner Ashley Dowden runs about 1000 Santa Gertrudis cattle alongside wife Debbie near Mt Magnet and said livestock theft impacted pastoralists across the southern rangelands.

Speaking to Countryman before next Thursday’s Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA pastoral forum, Mr Dowden said a police squad solely overseeing livestock would mitigate pastoral stock theft.

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“Industry is still keen to have a specific stock stealing unit,” he said.

“Without industry pushing for it, nothing is going to happen.”

Sturt Meadows Station owner Paul Axford is among pastoralists who long bore the brunt of the northern Goldfields’ cattle theft woes.

Mr Axford, who controls a herd of 2500 Shorthorns at the property about 40km north-west of Leonora, welcomed returning the stock investigation unit.

“A stock squad is a good deterrent,” he said.

“Livestock thefts have been a major issue in the northern Goldfields, especially in 2015 and 2016 — it was rampant.”

Mr Axford also added the Federal Government should consider an umbrella approach to livestock theft laws, pointing to Queensland’s cattle stealing prevention legislation as a strong approach.

Police Minister Michelle Roberts was not drawn into commenting on reinstating the stock squad this week.

Instead, Mrs Roberts said the State’s newly introduced rural investigators would “actively respond to criminal behaviour impacting on farmers and related businesses”.

“Police treat seriously all reported incidents of stock theft and any other offence targeting primary producers,” she said.

In February, Nationals WA agriculture spokesman Colin de Grussa ignited the stock squad discussion.

At the time, WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan indicated that she was not against reinstating the unit.

The comments prompted Pinnacles Station owner Craig Harvey to contact Countryman in March to champion the squad’s return.

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