‘Bonus cluster’ achieved for first time

South West NRM creates a bonus protected area with latest cluster fencing approvals


Sheep
Green pick is visible in the protected Coban cluster at Cunnamulla, one of the phase two cluster fencing projects, which proponents say will provide benefits to soil condition and lessen water run-off, as well as provide more pasture for stock. Picture supplied.

Green pick is visible in the protected Coban cluster at Cunnamulla, one of the phase two cluster fencing projects, which proponents say will provide benefits to soil condition and lessen water run-off, as well as provide more pasture for stock. Picture supplied.

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For the first time in the cluster fencing program that has been going on in Queensland since 2012, an area of land will be encircled and receive protection from cluster projects, at no cost to the taxpayer.

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For the first time in the cluster fencing program that has been going on in Queensland since 2012, an area of land will be encircled and receive protection from cluster projects, at no cost to the taxpayer.

South West NRM has just announced approval for six new clusters as part of the latest round of Queensland Feral Pest Initiative money, through which a ‘bonus cluster’ of 148,139 hectares will be achieved.

It means the total new area to be protected under phase three of the natural resource management’s Collaborative Area Management program in south western Queensland will be 562,691ha.

“This seventh cluster is a true example of the power of this project and its use of a honeycomb effect,” SW NRM chairman, Mark O’Brien, said.

“When we developed the model, it was our goal to leverage new clusters off existing ones, to provide the highest level of cost-efficiency.

“Effectively protecting an area of 150,000 hectares at no cost to the taxpayer will provide extraordinary benefits to the regional economy.

“Other than those graziers who have fenced themselves, this ‘bonus cluster’ is something that no other group in Australia is yet to achieve.”

The captured area won’t be subject to management by SW NRM.

Project manager, Jon Grant, said the effect of the placement of the latest clusters had been taken into account when assessing applications but wasn’t an over-riding factor.

“The group with the fence that will make this extra closed-in area highlighted that fact in its application,” he said. “We always knew this would be possible, but it takes time and money.”

Six new clusters

Six new cluster groups throughout south west Queensland have been given the go-ahead to establish exclusion fences, meaning there will be 673 kilometres of new, high integrity fence to protect 562,691 hectares of land from the impacts of invasive pests such as wild dogs and feral pigs.

Mr O’Brien said that similarly to their previous rounds of funding, there had been an overwhelming response from the region.

“Landholders should be applauded for the level of detail and quality of their applications – this ensures we can select the best clusters and roll out funding as quickly as possible.”

He said all cluster applications undergo significant analysis and modelling for current and potential economic impacts, which was important because they were partly funded with taxpayer dollars.

This was needed to ensure that the best clusters were being chosen to generate the strongest regional and local benefit.

Mr Grant estimated the impacts from pests to be more than to $5 million annually over the six approved clusters.

“It is expected that through the project, properties will have the ability to increase current stocking numbers on average by 101 per cent,” he said. “This has the potential to put another 69,232 sheep on the ground and provide more than $1.8 million in annual regional benefit.”

Whilst the exact location of the clusters will not be publically released until all groups have been contracted, the new clusters will see 459,426 hectares protected in the Paroo shire, and 103,265 hectares protected in the Quilpie shire.

Both shires are considered priority one investment areas under the Queensland Feral Pest Initiative.

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