Wild dog fencing bringing back livelihoods

PROTECTION: Support for farmers battling wild dogs is available, if they fall into the priority shires.
PROTECTION: Support for farmers battling wild dogs is available, if they fall into the priority shires. Contributed

Last week Rural Weekly spoke to a farmer who had been devastated by wild dog attacks. This week we found out how federal, state and local governments are responding to the issue.

MORGAN Gronold, from the central western Queensland Remote Area Planning and Development board, explained what programs and funding are available to Queensland farmers struggling with wild dog attacks.

The Queensland Government, through the Federal Government, has been funding what is called cluster or exclusion fencing, as part of their overall animal pests and weeds program.

There are priority-one and priority-two shires.

Priority-one shires include Paroo, Murweh, Quilpie, Barcaldine, Longreach, Blackall, Tambo, Barcoo, Winton, and Flinders.

Priority-two shires include Maranoa, Balonne, Southern Downs, Western Downs and Goondiwindi.

Priority-one shires get preference over priority-two shires for the cluster fence funding.

Round one of the government-funded cluster fencing has finished.

The process took about 18 months.

"We received an initial $5.25million to fence in round one,” Mr Gronold said.

"The State and Federal Governments then fished around and found some more money. We then applied for that and got about another $2.5million which enabled us to do round two.

"Initially, we were completely oversubscribed.

"There were 36 applications for over $10million and we only had $5million.

"So we went back to the government and said 'look there's great demand out here, if you can give us the money we can put it straight on the ground', which is what we've done with round two.

"At the end of last year, we said 'we think there's a continued demand for fencing out here, I think we should put an expression of interest out to see if anyone else is interested in doing it'.

"And at that stage there was no more money, but we wanted to start to build a bit of a picture.”

RAFAD's Morgan Gronold said round two of their cluster fencing scheme is currently being built.
RAFAD's Morgan Gronold said round two of their cluster fencing scheme is currently being built. Contributed

The State Government has committed more money to cluster fences.

"There's another $7million for pests and weeds in Queensland, and a portion of that will be cluster fencing,” Mr Gronold said.

"What we're preparing for now is to reapply for additional funds, to try and get some more money to do those expressions of interest.

"Plus, I've probably had another 10 or 12 people ring me since that expression of interest saying 'look if there's any more money, we'd love to be a part of it'.”

There are two different schemes running for cluster fencing in central Queensland.

"There's the original program which is the one I run. It's a subsidy program. Most of the fences out here at the moment cost between $7000 and $8000 per kilometre,” Mr Gronold said.

"So the program I manage is like a debit card program - you get $2700 per kilometre and you have to build it in the next 12-18 months. It's not a loan, you just get the money in the bank.

"The Longreach Regional Council went to the State Government and said they were interested in doing a credit card version, so they got a loan for about $15million for cluster fencing in their shire. It's not a subsidy per-say but it's a loan you get to pay off at your rates over 20 years.

"It's complementary to the one we're doing now.”

Mr Gronold said it was his vision to see 50per cent of the RAFAD region fenced.

"Either by our funding or the Longreach scheme or other shire schemes or whatever,” he said.

"It's more than just fencing for us. The reason the cluster fencing is so important to us is really about de-population.

"The issue we're finding is people are leaving the shires, local businesses wouldn't operate, mainly because the attacks of wild dogs that were occurring.

"We come at it from a bit of a different angle. For us it's about economic development, it's also about pests and weeds, but we're trying to halt the flow of people out of the communities and build the sheep industry back up to where it was.”

Mr Gronold said it's about getting farmers environmental, economic and social payback.

"From an environmental perspective it's about people not being able to use some of their paddocks any more and saying they can only use half the place because they can't put sheep into the other half because they just get eaten.

"From an economic perspective it's about people telling us lambings are going from 80per cent to 30per cent. Sheep numbers just keep going down. Sheep population out here has probably gone down by 200,000 at least, and it just becomes unviable.

"What we're seeing from people who have got those fences up is that their sheep numbers are going back up, their lambings percentages are going back up, which of course means employment and money and jobs.

"The other side of it is about wellbeing; it's about the social fabric of the community. Chasing dogs is a bit like chasing black holes, you never know when it's going to happen and you never know when it's going to end, so it becomes all-consuming.

"That's an issue for people's mental health. Imagine getting up and there's sheep torn to pieces all over the place and you don't know where it's coming from and you feel quite helpless.

"And because you're spending all your time with that, you can't be the secretary of the tennis club any more, so from a social perspective it's an issue as well.”

Topics:  cluster fencing federal govenment qrapd queensland queensland remore area planning and development wild dogs