Wild dog fence’s $1.5 million gap stirs political row

Zach Relph and Cally DupeCountryman
WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan has coined the State Barrier Fence’s funding shortfall the “Wilson-Littleproud gap”.
Camera IconWA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan has coined the State Barrier Fence’s funding shortfall the “Wilson-Littleproud gap”. Credit: Stuart McGuckin

A political stoush has erupted over who will cover a $1.5 million shortfall to fund a pest-proof fence’s long-awaited extension in the State’s South to protect farmers from the increasing wild dog threat.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud revealed a $1 million injection to the State Barrier Fence’s touted Esperance extension while in Ravensthorpe last Friday in an effort to kick-start the 660km development.

The funding boost leaves the project, which is dependent on pending environmental approvals, within $1.5 million of its $11 million target.

WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan questioned why her Federal counterpart had not covered the shortfall, terming the $1.5 million deficit the “Wilson-Littleproud gap” in reference to Mr Littleproud and Liberal Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson.

Speaking with Countryman, Mr Littleproud fired back at Ms MacTiernan and called on the State Government to stump up remaining funds.

“I don’t think people care, they just want outcomes,” he said.

“They don’t care whose responsibility this is and this is pettiness from the WA Government, instead of saying thank you.

“Don’t let these people down because it changes people’s lives and you (Ms MacTiernan) shouldn’t sit in Perth, you should go out and listen to people.”

Wild dogs threaten livestock.
Camera IconWild dogs threaten livestock. Credit: DAFWA

After the Federal Government’s $1 million commitment, there is $9.5 million in the State Barrier Fence extension’s kitty.

The McGowan Government has poured in $6.9 million, while the Shire of Esperance has directed $1.5 million and the Shire of Ravensthorpe delivered $280,000.

Despite the announcement, Ms MacTiernan said the Federal Government was failing to support pest control in WA.

“The Federal Government’s contribution to this important project pales in comparison to its investment in Queensland — compare this $1 million to the $9 million Queensland received last year for pest management,” she said.

“We will continue to consider the best option to fill the remaining $1.5 million funding gap — which should be called the Wilson-Littleproud gap.”

Cascade farmer Scott Pickering welcomed the latest funding boost and said he expected the project would be “under budget”.

Mr Pickering, the Esperance Biosecurity Association chairman, described the issue as a long-standing game of “political football” that “just needs money”. “We are getting closer, we are 90 per cent there now so hopefully we can start the project soon,” he said.

The proposed project will extend the State Barrier Fence from its end-point 25km east of Ravensthorpe, north around Salmon Gums and terminating east of Esperance, near Cape Arid National Park.

However, the fence hinges on two appeals opposing it on environmental grounds.

The two appeals, one submitted by Wilderness Society WA, were lodged in response to an Environmental Protection Authority report on the development.

The Appeals Convenor was investigating the appeals, with Environment Minister Stephen Dawson to make the final decision whether the fence will be erected after the probe.

Wilderness Society WA director Kit Sainsbury said the fence would be a serious threat to the rare western ground parrot.

There is no set date for when the decision will be made.

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