A controversial announcement by the state government last month that half a million dollars would be sliced off a $5m promise for western Queensland cluster fencing, for a pilot study, has this week been modified.
The government is now offering $500,000 in addition to the $5m promised by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in May.
Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne said guidelines had been finalised by the Oversight Group, which includes Wild Dog Fencing Commissioners Mark O’Brien and Vaughan Johnson, to deliver funding where it is most needed.
“I’ve spoken with the commissioners and we agree it is important to get the maximum impact at the earliest opportunity.
“That is why $5 million in grants for cluster fencing to help revitalise the sheep industry will be committed by the government before Christmas.”
Mr Byrne said the knowledge that some landholders could not form clusters for various reasons was behind the plan to investigate and implement a pilot project looking at contingent loans for producers, announced in October and still in play but funded in addition to the $5m promised, rather than as part of that money.
“We’ve developed a package that gives producers and landholders a range of options to suit their situation,” Mr Byrne said.
The announcement today also opened the Expressions of Interest for that funding, which was the subject of a frustrated speech by the Member for Gregory, Lachlan Millar, in state parliament, calling for the money to be released.
“We have not received one red cent on the ground and there is no clear explanation why not,” Mr Millar told Parliament at the start of November.
He described the government’s wild dog funding as “one of the most overdone examples of government red-tape”, saying all local councils had wild-dog pest rangers, along with expertise within NRM groups in the region.
More than $10 million will be going to projects to fight pest animals and weeds, $5 million for cluster fencing in long-term drought affected areas, $1.84 million for community weed and pest animal management in rural areas, and $1.9 million for industry and local government weed and pest animal management.
“I’m also working with the Commonwealth government to finalise details for a further $2m to boost the weed and pest management initiative, focusing on drought-affected regions,” Mr Byrne said.
“Cluster fencing funding, based on the South West NRM model, will be allocated to projects supporting regionally-agreed cluster fencing arrangements in areas with high wild dog density and/or evidence of high impacts.
“Applications for the regional weed and pest animal management funding can complement cluster fencing arrangements in areas with high wild dog density and/or impacts, weed or pest animal control to protect the area’s assets.
“The industry and local government pest component will be for projects that support and mentor landholders, such as through building skills and best practice management.”
“Projects can be for one to three years; however it is important that the applicants demonstrate how proposals will result in measurable long term weed and pest animal management outcomes.”
Those who can apply include natural resource management groups, local governments and industry organisations.
Applicants will need to demonstrate they have developed projects through consultation with affected stakeholders, such as producers, community groups, landcare and wild dog committees.
Mr Byrne said adopting a coordinated approach will ensure projects are fit for purpose, enduring, facilitate local employment and achieve the greatest impact.
Project applications will close at 5pm on December 2.
To apply for the Queensland Feral Pest Initiative grants, visit www.daf.qld.gov.au or call 13 25 23.