Fatal accident sparks call for pastoral fence inquiry

Fatal accident sparks call for pastoral fence inquiry Flip PriorCountryman
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A Fitzroy Crossing man, whose two nephews died when their car collided with another vehicle after hitting a stray bull, has backed calls for a trial of reflective ear tags on livestock but also wants an inquiry into adequacy of pastoral fences along major roads.

Patrick Davies said one nephew died at the scene and the other in hospital a short time after the accident, about 95km south of Halls Creek on the Great Northern Highway in December, 2010.

A 45-year-old woman in the other car died when it rolled and caught on fire and a 10-year-old boy had to rescue his sister from the burning wreck.

A 16-year-old passenger in the men's car suffered a broken leg.

Mr Davies said an investigation into maintenance of fences along highways and major roads was needed because traffic in the region was increasing.

"In some cases, there are sections where there are no fence lines at all," he said.

"I will acknowledge that there are signs on the road that warn motorists of unfenced sections of the highway but the fact remains that cattle also stray onto our highways."

Mr Davies said there should be a "cattle alert" system so motorists could report straying stock to relevant authorities so animals could be retrieved and fence lines repaired.

He accepted maintenance of all fences would be expensive but believed someone must be responsible for wearing that cost.

Pastoral and Graziers Association spokesman Sheldon Mumby said Main Roads and pastoralists shared responsibility for installation offences along main roads and highways but pastoralists then bore the cost of maintenance, repairs and replacements.

"It is in pastoralists' interests to maintain their fences due to the liability they incur when stock stray off properties and the value of the live stock," he said.

"As well, most pastoralists have a genuine concern for road safety because it is their family and friends who most often are involved in the crashes."

Mr Mumby said Main Roads had established the Pastoral Fences Working Group to address straying stock and road safety issues.

The group had recommended that Main Roads contribute to fencing where there was public benefit, new warning signage and an investigation into pastoral fencing standards in WA.

However, the State Government had sat on their report since February, Mr Mumby said.

Last week, mining giant Rio Tinto, pastoralists and police backed widespread use of reflective ear tags on livestock to reduce serious road trauma caused by straying.

Pilbara MP Tom Stephens said the tags seemed a relatively inexpensive way to save lives and could be jointly funded by industry and government.

"The use of ear tags is routine for branded cattle - there would be some minimal cost only in utilising the reflector tags and sticking these tags on both ears," he said.

"For every fatal accident and accident involving serious injuries where stock are involved there are countless others where the damage is significant but not lethal."

A spokeswoman for Transport Minister Troy Buswell said Main Roads was progressing implementation of the recommendations.

"With regard to the potential use of reflective tags on cattle … Main Roads will be conducting further investigations into the use of these devices, including experiences in other parts of Australia and in the US," he said.

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