State Barrier Fence extension finished ‘within two years’ after native title issues rectified

WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan hammers in the first fence post of the fence extension.
Camera IconWA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan hammers in the first fence post of the fence extension. Credit: Cally Dupe

WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan says the long-awaited State Barrier Fence extension will be finished within two years after striking an agreement with native title holders to allow access to their land near Esperance — two years after the project started.

Just 63km of the proposed 660km extension of the fence has been built after the project broke ground in May 2019, with complex native title agreements between the McGowan Government and Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation stalling.

The stand off was resolved last Monday with Esperance Tjaltraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Peter Bednall revealing the organisation had inked an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with the State Government allowing “access to build the fence” along portions of land subject to native title.

He said while native title holders did not believe the State Barrier Fence was a cost-effective measure, they were willing to work in good faith with the Government, and said the State made “major modifications” to the fence proposal to reduce its impact on Aboriginal cultural heritage in the region.

The 1170km State Barrier Fence protects livestock and crops from wild animals across WA, with the $11 million 660km extension set to extend the fence from Ravensthorpe to Cape Arid National Park east of Esperance after nearly 20 years of campaigning by local farmers.

WA Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan welcomed the progress and said the extension would take about two years to complete.

The State plans to tender the project in coming weeks and for work to break ground in January.

“This is the culmination of years of negotiations, and will provide real economic benefits to the Tjaltjraak people through employment opportunities on the fence,” she said.

“The State Barrier Fence is integral to helping control wild dogs and giving producers the confidence they need to restock and grow the sheep industry.”

Cascade farmer Scott Pickering.
Camera IconCascade farmer Scott Pickering. Credit: Cally Dupe

The region’s sheep producers expect the development will safeguard flocks from ravaging wild dog, while grain growers hope it will protect valuable crops from emus.

Cascade sheep farmer and Esperance Biosecurity Association chairman Scott Pickering said given it had taken two years to build 63km of the fence, finishing the remaining 597km of the extension would be “an absolute record”.

Mr Pickering long fought in favour of the extension, which has been subject to environmental approvals and funding issues, to nullify wild dog attacks on sheep.

“It’s great to get a conclusion and at least we’re going to get started,” he said.

“I don’t agree with Peter Bednall’s comment that it is not a cost-effective measure, but we just want to get the project finished.

“This is great for the Esperance area and we thank Esperance Tjaltraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation for voting in favour of it.”

Of the 63km built so far, 8km is within the Shire of Ravensthorpe and the remainder is near four farms in the Cascade area.

The WA Government poured $6.9 million into the project, with $2 million from the Federal Government, $1.5 million from the Shire of Esperance and $280,000 from the Shire of Ravensthorpe.

Esperance Tjaltjraak Aboriginal Rangers were involved in the first 63km of fencing on freehold land.

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