The announcement on Thursday that the state government had approved a $17.968m Queensland Treasury Corporation loan to the Longreach Regional Council was hailed by its mayor, Ed Warren as securing the future of the district.
“Sometimes councils out here have got to take things by the scruff of the neck,” he said. “I think we will look back in time at the things that made a difference and this will be one of them.”
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced in parliament yesterday that it had approved of the plan for the council to borrow nearly $18m, which would be made available to 63 landholders in the region who had expressed interest in putting up exclusion fencing.
The initiative is cost-neutral to the council, with the applicants paying for their fencing through a special rate levied over a period of 20 years.
Mr Palaszczuk described it as bringing the revival of the sheep and wool industry in the central west one step closer.
Some 900,000 hectares of productive grazing land, or around 22 per cent of the Longreach region, would be protected from wild dog predation under the scheme.
The money will cover the cost of 2500 kilometres of exclusion fencing infrastructure.
Cr Warren said people could apply for the whole cost of erecting a fence, around $8000 per kilometre, or recipients of Queensland Feral Pest Initiative funds, $2900/km, could claim for the balance outstanding.
“It was an idea put to us by local grazier John te Kloot, based on the old rural electrification scheme,” he said. “I think we caught the government by surprise, that we were not looking for a handout, and would be paying the money back.”
He said the key to clinching the deal was putting a business case together, highlighting both economic and pest management benefits.
He estimated an increase of 200,000 sheep in the region over the next five years, an increase of around 40 per cent on current number, once the scheme is operational.
Ms Palaszczuk said, “With sheep, come shearers and additional local economic activity in towns in western Queensland.
“The council estimates an increase of 130 jobs in the region, along with potential population increase of around 500 people related to the increase in jobs, once the scheme is operational.
“We want to see rural and regional economies and communities thriving, and I commend Longreach Regional Council on their innovative thinking with this initiative.”
Cr Warren said he suspected other western councils would be getting in touch to discuss the scheme now.
“It’s an opportunity for other local governments to take on, and the Longreach Regional Council would be happy to assist, so they don’t have to start afresh,” he said.
He added that not all councils would have the capacity to borrow.
Work now commences on the rollout of the scheme with suppliers and contractors gathering for information sessions later this month.