As money begins to roll out to central west cluster fencing groups that have successfully applied for assistance, Remote Area Planning and Development Board chairman Rob Chandler is ratcheting up pressure for the state government’s May Day announcement of $5m in new check fence funding to be distributed.
“To those clusters who missed out, I can assure you I am talking to Vaughan Johnson, our central western fencing commissioner, and Lachlan Miller, Member for Gregory, regularly to ensure we get the additional funding allocated by the state government released as soon as possible so we can get more fences up across the central west,” he said.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk didn’t specify where the funding was to go at the time but appointed Mr Johnson and SW NRM chairman Mark O’Brien as fence commissioners to oversee the process.
RAPAD is currently managing the distribution of its share of $12m in joint federal-state funding, to 17 clusters, which equals 90 individual properties and 1726km of fencing.
According to projects officer Morgan Gronald, this will enable 1.14m ha to be protected from wild dogs and realise a private contribution of $10.7M, a 231 per cent return on investment for state and federal governments.
One of those signing up to the RAPAD program is Barcaldine’s Ben Chandler, who said the impact of wild dogs on his renowned sheep and wool-producing area was “undoubtedly as bad as it gets”.
“Wild dog attacks accounted for 20 per cent mortality year on year in the adult ewes, and lambing percentages were as low as 2 per cent in some mobs.
“Once fenced I am confident we will go from zero sheep to around 10,000. My brother and I are keen to get back into the sheep industry and this is just the boost we need.”
Ben Banks, part of the Mekaree cluster south west of Blackall, is looking forward to being able to use paddocks again once fencing is complete.
Some 11 per cent of his country is currently under-utilised, and sheep won’t graze where dogs operate.
“Instead, they congregate on the tops of hills or in tight groups in paddocks to try and protect themselves from the dogs.
“This is especially disastrous for pregnant ewes and wool production.”
Cluster group members have maintained sheep and wool handling infrastructure, and Ben believes it won’t be hard to grow with anticipated increased productivity.
“All landholders within this group run family-owned and operated businesses and have made their livelihoods from the sheep industry,” he said. “This will more than likely to continue as a result of the fencing, with another generation becoming involved with the management of these properties already.”
Barcaldine’s David McKenzie believes the exclusion of wild dogs will be a huge benefit to his cluster’s cattle enterprises, saying the potential impact of cattle becoming infected with Neosporum caninum will be eliminated.