Wild dog fund plan slammed

Rueben HaleCountryman
Ashley Dowden at his property Challa Station, near Mount Magnet.
Camera IconAshley Dowden at his property Challa Station, near Mount Magnet. Credit: Countryman

The announcement of the State Government’s $20 million plan to control wild dogs has not been welcomed by all parts of the industry.

Murchison pastoralist Ashley Dowden has criticised the plan as lacking the vision and scope to address the problem.

Mr Dowden, who is also chairman of the Meekatharra Rangelands Biosecurity Association, had championed a different proposal to the one finally announced by the State Government on the weekend.

MRBA had submitted a $4.53 million plan to complete the Murchison Regional Vermin Cell, fencing off 88,000sqkm of land.

Under the proposal, 53 pastoral stations and nine properties owned by the Department of Parks and Wildlife would be enclosed by building 480km of dog-proof fence.

This fence would connect the No 2 Vermin Fence Fence, south-east of Meekatharra, across to the State Barrier Fence, which lies north-east of Mullewa.

“The State Government announcement does not spend enough money on traditional control methods to control the number of dogs in the cells,” Mr Dowden said.

“The strategy will also end up destroying valuable agricultural lands as livestock numbers are pushed to extremes in the small fenced-off cluster areas that have been proposed.”

Mr Dowden has accused some in the Department of Agriculture and Food WA of being ideologically opposed to the MRVC.

“Myself and others in the Murchison have worked tirelessly for more than seven years lobbying industry and government to take action on the wild dogs,” Mr Dowden said.

“We feel our proposal had been derailed, despite broad acceptance by State and Federal authorities.

“Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce and National Wild Dog Facilitator Greg Mifsud had expressed enthusiasm for the proposal during a series of meetings in Sydney and Canberra last year.

“During the meetings, I had received an undertaking from DAFWA invasive species director Viv Read that the MRVC proposal would be included as part of the WA Wild Dog Action Plan.”

However, Mr Read said the MRVC plan had been considered by the steering committee for the WA Wild Dog Action Plan, of which Mr Dowden was also a member.

“Mr Dowden’s proposal was considered in the economic analysis that led to the group proposing there be competitive funds for cell fell fencing,” Mr Read said.

Meanwhile, the Pastoralists and Graziers Association — for which Mr Dowden is the unofficial wild dogs spokesman — has so far not endorsed the State Government’s plan.

PGA president Tony Seabrook said he was aware of Mr Dowden’s opposition to the State Government’s position, but would reserve taking an official position for the time being.

WAFarmers has issued a statement in support of the plan.

Ashley Dowden and his wife, Debbie, destocked entirely in 2008, no longer able to face waking up to mutilated sheep. The wild dogs had decimated their flocks and their livelihood.

2011 Mr Dowden and other pastoralists lobby Oakajee Port and Rail pastoralists to construct a dog-proof fence along its rail line.

2012 Mt Magnet Shire president Mr Dowden lobbies on behalf of all Murchison shires for $1.6 million to upgrade the north-to-south running No. 1 Vermin Fence to dog-proof standard and then upgrades the No. 2 fence running from east to west, thereby creating two sides of the Murchison Region Vermin Cell.

2014 Mr Dowden champions a proposal to build 380km of fence connecting the No. 2 Barrier Fence, south-west of Meekatharra, across to the State Barrier Fence north-east of Mullewa, fencing off 88,000sqkm of land, which would complete the last side of the MRVC.

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