Fence fund plan controversy

Fence commissioner rejects loan element of new cluster fencing plan


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The former Member for Gregory, Vaughan Johnson, pictured left with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Mark O'Brien in Barcaldine in May, has spoken out against putting government money aside to loan to individual graziers looking to fence their country. Picture: Sally Cripps.

The former Member for Gregory, Vaughan Johnson, pictured left with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Mark O'Brien in Barcaldine in May, has spoken out against putting government money aside to loan to individual graziers looking to fence their country. Picture: Sally Cripps.

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A new element in the state government’s wild dog cluster fencing program is causing controversy even as the Agriculture Minister was announcing it in Parliament this morning.

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A new element in the state government’s wild dog cluster fencing program is causing controversy even as the Agriculture Minister was announcing it in Parliament this morning.

Ms Donaldson announced that the rollout plan for the $5m announced by the Premier in Barcaldine in May could include a loan scheme.

“I understand the merit in establishing a loan scheme and I am able to announce today that $500,000 of the $5 million will be set aside to investigate a contingent loan scheme to assist producers to construct cluster fences on more marginal land that is suitable for sheep production,” she said. “If this pilot is successful it could pave the way for how wild dogs are managed in Queensland in the future.”

However, Vaughan Johnson, one of two Wild Dog fence commissioners appointed by Premier Palaszczuk when she made the funding announcement, said today that he didn’t agree with the plan.

“There’s a catch to this – letting one person with 30,000 acres borrow the money and pay it back over a couple of years is keeping someone else out of the equation.

“We need to get as many producers inside fencing as soon as possible.

“If you had three producers, say, with 30,000 acres each, wanting to borrow money under a fully regimented scheme, I wouldn’t have a problem.”

Landholders and local governments in areas feeling the effects of wild dogs have been increasingly calling for the money announced in May to be released, and this week the Member for Maranoa, David Littleproud joined that call, as reported by Queensland Country Life.

From the Agriculture Minister’s words in Parliament this morning, it appears they will have to wait a little longer to know how the money will be disbursed.

Ms Donaldson said the Queensland Feral Pest Initiative oversight group had considered a range of factors to target the funding, including seasonal conditions and different requirements for properties in different areas.

“The Oversight Group will now meet to finalise the guidelines for the next round of QFPI grant funding to roll out in coming months,” she said.

The group comprises Wild Dog fencing commissioners Mark O’Brien and Vaughan Johnston and representatives from AgForce, the Local Government Association of Queensland, Queensland Conservation, the National Wild Dog Facilitator, a regional Pest Management Group, the Dog Watch Committee and the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing.

A spokesman for Ms Donaldson said it was anticipated there would be an even split between south western and central western needs.

“There will be a tender process, and we expect that some of the existing projects not able to be funded to date might meet the criteria for round two,” he said.

All up, the state government will be putting more than $10 million towards pest management in Queensland.

“On my recent visits into regional areas, I have received feedback from landholders and industry stakeholders on a consolidated funding strategy to address pest animals and weeds now and into the future,” Ms Donaldson said.

“The $3.7 million announced in this year’s budget for wild dog control will be invested over three years through additional employment opportunities in regional areas to support training and improved management of wild dogs and other pests.

“The state budget earmarked $1.84 million under the Queensland Government’s Rural Assistance Package for weed management which will be invested in rural areas to fight particularly invasive species.”

In addition to this is $2m promised by deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce last month.

A spokesman for Ms Donaldson said the federal department hadn’t yet contacted the state government with an indication of how the money was to be spent.

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