RURAL

Dog Fence project rebuilding hope

The $25 million project to repair South Australia’s ailing dog fence and restore pastoralists faith in their future is underway.

This collaborative effort by Federal and State governments as well as industry will rebuild about 1600km, more than two-thirds of SA’s portion of the world’s longest, continuous fence.

The State’s Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone has started the ball rolling, appointing National Wild Dog Management Coordination Committee chair and SA sheep producer, Geoff Power, as chair of the SA Dog Fence Board to lead the project.

“We’ve started the preliminary work by creating an oversight committee which includes representatives from all four local dog fence boards responsible for sections of the fence,” Geoff said.

“Next step is to work out an operational plan to ensure the fence is effective. A lot has changed in 100 years – some sections are now under a lot of pressure from camels and kangaroos that create breaks in the fence, letting wild dogs through. In these areas a 1.5m high fence just isn’t enough.

“It’s crucial the fence rebuild responds to our current pest animal problems as well as supports best practice wild dog management.”

Geoff, whose farm ‘Sambas’ is 280km north of Adelaide, said the project’s go-ahead has come as an enormous relief to producers.

“We’ve been campaigning heavily for this for the past three years,” he said. “Last year (2018), producers lost up to 20,000 sheep inside the fence to wild dogs.

“There’s no doubt the ongoing drought is driving more dogs south and with the added pressure of camels and kangaroos on the fence, farming livestock in the pastoral zones has become very challenging.

Geoff said fence repair work should begin during autumn 2020.

“This project is a great example of what government, the SA Dog Fence Board, industry and grass-roots working together can achieve and, I know I speak for a lot of other producers, when I say this project has created a lot of optimism for the future.”

As chair of the National Wild Dog Management Coordination Committee, Geoff works with government, producers, environmental committees, researchers and industry to help guide Australia’s wild dog management policy framed by the National Wild Dog Action Plan.

National Wild Dog Management Coordinator Greg Mifsud, who helps implement the Plan, said producers inside the fence “had been hammered by wild dogs, with the drought exacerbating an already very distressing situation”.

“While most Australians are unaffected by the dog fence, it has such a significant impact on the wellbeing of those families and communities in the pastoral zone as well as offering a safe haven for our more vulnerable native species at risk of excessive predation.”

Greg said the project is the result of industry, government and natural resource management groups, and the SA Dog Fence Board, working together to find a solution to the challenge of upgrading sections of the fence.

“For years there has been insufficient budget to maintain this fence to a suitable standard but by collaborating with the SA Dog Fence Board, stakeholders have secured its future,” he said.

“While most of the wild dog impacts are felt by sheep pastoralists in the state’s north, the fence upgrade will offer significant protection to the sheep and wool industries further south.”

This article was first published in The Fence magazine.

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