Land use agreement gives green light to WA barrier fence

The long-awaited extension to the historic WA State Barrier fence is due to begin next January to create a 660km boundary protecting south-eastern farming properties from the impact of wild dogs.

The project was backed by a $6.9 million State Government investment and was part of a broad range of measures to support the Western Australian livestock industry combat wild dogs.

The project will allow the State barrier Fence to run 1850km from Zuytdforp cliffs north of Kalbarri to Condingup east of Esperance.

Issues surrounding native title brought the project to a standstill two years ago but an agreement was brokered this month with Esperance Tjaltjraak Native Title Aboriginal Corporation’s authorisation of the Indigenous Land Use Agreement for the extension.

The Esperance Tjaltjraak Services fencing team had already constructed the first 63km in the Jerdacuttup/Cascade area in 2019, starting at the termination of the existing 1190km long State Barrier fence, before the project stalled.

National Wild Dog Action Plan Coordination Committee member and Esperance Biosecurity Association chairman Scott Pickering said the green light for the fence was a relief after a two decade long fight by regional landholders.

Mr Pickering said some landholders frustrated at the delay had erected private barrier fences while others continually questioned the hold-up.

“This fence will seal off the agricultural land from Kalbarri to Esperance so we can continually farm without the predation of wild dogs, kangaroos and emus,” he said.

“The cost-benefit analysis showed for every dollar invested returned $6 – that has been proven in western Queensland the economic benefits are huge.

“It’s a good outcome for everybody.”

Minister for Agriculture Alannah MacTiernan said the State Barrier Fence was integral to helping control wild dogs and giving producers the confidence to restock and grow the sheep industry.

“This is the culmination of years of negotiations and will provide real economic benefits to the Tjaltjraak people through employment opportunities on the fence,” the Minister said.

“The Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) must now be registered with the Commonwealth Native Title Registrar before works can begin on the fence extension, and we are progressing this as a matter of urgency.

“In the meantime, tendering will get underway for fence works to ensure construction can begin as soon as the ILUA is formally registered.”

Minister MacTiernan said works were anticipated to get underway on Tjaltjraak land in January.

The project is expected to take about two years to complete from the time new construction contracts are awarded.

Mr Pickering said 118km of the fence was on private property, 300km on road verge the balance subject to native title.

“I’ve been fighting this for 20 years – I bought a farm in 2001 and had sheep getting ripped apart then as wild dog numbers hit a peak,” he said.

“The farmers formed a declared species group as there was no one to turn to – we were struggling for funding early on and had to push hard to get funds to control wild dogs.”

Mr Pickering said farmers were on the front foot to influence policy makers in the past two decades but both sides were now on good terms.

Minister MacTiernan said the WA Government was delivering an unprecedented investment into wild dog management to support sheep farmers – more than $25 million over the past four years, with a further $13.4 million over the next four.

“Since 2017, 370km of the State Barrier Fence has been replaced, and by 2025 a further 400km of netting will be replaced with ring lock, improving the integrity of the fence to withstand the impact of emus and wild dogs,” she said.

National Wild Dog Action Plan Coordination Committee PGA representative Chris Patmore said it was pleasing the landholders persisted and the project would go ahead.

“It gives those landholders certainty they can run sheep – many have run sheep in the past but have gone to cropping or were uncertain with the number of wild dogs coming through,” Mr Patmore said.

He said the value-added benefits would include increased employment and a boost for regional economies.

“This may allow croppers to add sheep to their enterprise. The other clusters around the state are steaming ahead as well.”