The locations of six new clusters that make up the third phase of South West NRM’s Collaborative Area Management program, funded by the Queensland Feral Pest Initiative, have been made public.
The revelation at the end of November came as the formal contractual arrangements for each of the new clusters were completed, meaning that over four million hectares in Queensland’s south west will now be protected by three rolled-out phases.
The six new clusters include 16 landholders across 24 properties, to be established in the Balonne, Paroo, and Quilpie shires.
When the latest approvals were announced in May, it was hailed as the first time a bonus cluster would be created, thanks to land being encircled from other projects.
SW NRM’s former project manager, Jon Grant, said that was still the case but the last link in the chain was now being done privately rather than through the CAM program, and so wouldn’t show up on mapping.
He said there was still strong interest for clusters throughout the south west, which highlighted the effectiveness and importance of the program for the long-term viability and resilience of the region.
This has been emphasised by an economic report on cluster fencing in south west Queensland released last week, which indicated an additional $25.67 million in annual production could be generated by phase two of the CAM project currently nearing completion.
Around 85 per cent of 1907 kilometres of exclusion fencing has been erected by the 15 cluster groups in that phase.
Mr Grant said there had been a slow start due to delays in materials being available but it was expected all would be completed by the end of the year, and those in phase three would be finished by late 2018.
When phase two is done, the economic modelling shows an extra 126 jobs could be generated.
Phase two has provided pest and invasive animal protection to 1,885,690ha of land across Barcoo, Balonne, Maranoa, Murweh, Paroo, and Quilpie shires, areas that historically have been strong producers of sheep and other small livestock.
Mr Grant said the report demonstrated the clear connection between the decline in this production and the deterioration of the economic and social performance throughout the region.
The report includes a variety of scenarios contrasting different stocking options.
“There are huge differences for communities between stocking 100pc with cattle and 100pc with sheep but all options have a positive return on investment for the taxpayer,” Mr Grant said.
“The amount just depends in individual landholders.
“I think the expectation that people will run all cattle is zero but it was covered off to meet all scenarios.”
Economic modelling on the six new clusters indicate landholders have experienced economic impacts of more than $5.78 million each year due to feral pests and increased grazing pressure.
“Through implementation of the cluster fences, there is the potential to increase current stocking by 138,600 DSE, but more importantly, we have the ability to safeguard more than 53,660 head of sheep from future wild dog predation”, said Mr Grant.
The project has been established through the Queensland Feral Pest Initiative, receiving funding from both the federal and state government.