Fence group hopes to cut cost barrier

Rebecca TurnerCountryman

The cost of the Esperance extension of the State Barrier Fence is set to escalate due to increasing steel prices, clearing and surveying costs and native title concerns.

Northern Mallee Declared Species Group spokesman and Cascade farmer Scott Pickering is hopeful the final costing, due to be finalised this month, will be ready for the May State Budget review.

WA Agriculture Minister Terry Redman was unable to say if the Government would provide the extra funding but is committed to the project, saying construction could still be a few years away.

Mr Pickering agreed because he believed it would be at least two years before environmental approval to start building the fence was given.

Despite the anticipated cost increases, the Cascade farmer is convinced the benefits for farmers in the region are two to one — for each dollar spent the region will receive a $2 benefit.

“We have also put a motion forward to the shire to raise rates of landholders to help pay for the fence’s construction,” Mr Pickering said. “Even if we could raise just $2 million from shire rates, this would go a long way towards the cost of building the fence.”

Mr Pickering said the fence not only kept out wild dogs but also emus and kangaroos which were a serious pest for grain growers.

Elsewhere in the State the improvement and upgrading of the State Barrier Fence is well underway.

An upgrade to 115km of fence, being fitted with lap wire, in the Shire of Mount Marshall, north of Beacon, through to Westonia Shire, is due to be finished next month.

It is intended the State Barrier Fence will eventually extend 1675km from east of Esperance to north of Geraldton after the commitment of $5.2 million in Royalties for Regions funding last year.

About 200km of the existing State Barrier Fence east of Narembeen to east of Ravensthorpe has been upgraded and a further 820km from north of Kalbarri to the Yilgarn Shire requires upgrading with lap netting.

Negotiations are underway with regional development commissions and shire/community groups to implement this. The Department of Agriculture and Food will assist the local communities in upgrading the 820km of fencing by providing fencing materials funded through Royalties for Regions.

Part of last year’s funding announcement to tackle WA’s wild dog problem included $3.6 million for eight extra doggers.

A department spokesman said the additional doggers were being employed through six biosecurity groups in WA, bringing the number of doggers in biosecurity groups to 20.

Two of the additional doggers are engaged by the Eastern Wheatbelt Declared Species Group and the Northern Mallee Declared Species Group and six are expected to start soon with the Goldfields Nullarbor Rangelands Biosecurity Association, Meekatharra Rangelands Biosecurity Association, Carnarvon Rangelands Biosecurity Association and Northern Agricultural Area via the Shire of Dalwallinu.

Mr Pickering said a second dogger for the Northern Mallee Declared Species Group meant they now had a full time operator in the west side of town, but the construction of a fence was still vital.

He said stock losses in the Esperance region had declined but this did not mean landowners should be complacent.

Over the next few months leading up to lambing wild dog control would remain in focus.

“There is currently a lot of young dogs on the move,” Mr Pickering said.

“Aerial baiting is scheduled for the middle of April and we will also try to combine this with some fox baiting.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails