Landholders voice concern over dingo reintroduction proposal

Landholders concerned over a proposal to reintroduce dingoes to state parks and reserves called on a Victorian meeting to lobby key ministers to make their feelings heard.

The meeting held at Dunkeld on April 12 drew 170 concerned growers and stakeholders from throughout the state and South Australia.

 It was facilitated by woolgrowers John and Rhonda Crawford, Victoria Valley, in response to recommendations made under the Inquiry into Ecosystems Decline in Victoria.

The recommendations included a trial reintroduction of dingoes to the state’s national parks and reserves, and the phasing out of 1080 baiting.

A petition launched by the couple calling for the proposals to be scrapped has drawn around 6000 signatures.

The meeting moved a motion for the Crawfords to write to Premier Daniel Andrew, Minister for Agriculture Mary-Anne Thomas, and Minister for Environment Lily D’Ambrosio expressing opposition to the reintroduction of dingoes and their protected status, and maintenance of lethal control of baiting, trapping and shooting, and the fox and wild dog bounty.

Guest speaker was the Member for Western Victoria and Shadow Assistant Minister for Scrutiny of Government Bev McArthur.

National Wild Dog Action Plan Coordination Committee chairman Geoff Power was alarmed to hear of the proposal to reintroduce dingoes in Victoria when other states are working hard on control programs.

“A few years ago (in South Australia) we were destroying up to 400 wild dogs a year and this increased to over 1000 in 2019. With strategic ground and aerial baiting along with trapping programs we are gradually getting on top of the problem,” Mr Power said.

“My plea is not to let Victoria face the same problems. Queensland some 25 years ago had a sheep population of over 20 million and because of wild dogs this was reduced to under 2 million.

“Once the sheep populations go it is not only the landholder affected but the entire community.”

Mr Power said Queensland and Western Australia were fighting back with cluster fencing.

Superfine wool grower and Victorian Farmers Federation representative on the National Wild Dog Action Plan Coordination Committee Peter Star gave his support to the meeting.

He has experienced the financial impacts of predation firsthand, losing 250 Merino wethers from a mob of 550, and 250 weaner lambs from a mob of 350.

“The last thing any farmers who adjoin and surround any state or national park in Victoria need is the reintroduction of dingoes/wild dogs to where they do not exist,” Mr Star said.

“Having lived all my life in the Upper Murray region of North East Victoria, wild dogs have bene a constant threat to my family and neighbour’s livelihoods and mental well-being since the mid 1980s.”

Cooma wool growers John and Jenny Alcock were losing 800 sheep plus calves a year to predation so erected 24km of electric fencing bordering the Greenland and Wadbilliga National Park in 1986 in NSW.

The couple told the meeting they have observed a rapid decline in not only sheep numbers but also quolls on their Bungarby property.

“The dingoes cause severe damage to the wildlife, shifting kangaroo populations onto private land, killing wallabies, echidnas, bandicoots, ground nesting birds, koalas, quolls, lizards and wombats,” Mr Alcock said.

“So, if anyone in government values their wildlife and respects their neighbours, please don’t release a top predator.”

The Corrowong Tombong Merriangaah Byadbo Wild Dog Management Group adjoins the Kosciusko National Park in NSW and Victorian national parks.

For the 16 frontline properties in the group, sheep losses in 2021 were more than $50,000.

To protect their livelihoods, farmers are responding by erecting exclusion fencing at a cost of around $12,000 per kilometre resulting in 150km erected at a cost of $1.8 million.

“Not included in this is the continual mental trauma of the threat of attack on and treatment and destruction of mauled livestock to farmers, their partners and children,” group coordinator Robert Ingram said.

“If society wants to take this step, not supported by science, wild dogs do not effectively control other feral carnivores, the consequence is the destruction of biodiversity in our unique and fragile ecosystems, and is a threat to the broader environmental sustainability of our nation’s agricultural land.”

Mr Ingram said the best approach was the control of all predators (canine and feline) in national parks and reserves under a multi-faceted control program including trapping and shooting.

He said landholders in the group using this approach were recording on monitoring cameras significant increases in ground dwelling marsupials, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

Bev McArthur MP gave her full support to the farming community on the issue at the meeting, saying agriculture was critical to the nation’s economy.

“The impact on farmers is immense, not only financially in stock losses but also on their families – the time, cost and effort in keeping out dingoes is considerable,” Ms McArthur said.

“Elsewhere in Australia, tens of millions of dollars is being spent on keeping dingoes out of where they already exist.

“There is no chance, in my view, these dogs could be stopped escaping …the idea fails the common-sense test, it has no regard for the country, farmers, history, the whole community and our way of life. It also affects tourism investment and is a safety issue.

“Apart from farming and tourism, the ecological impact is important. An introduction of top order predator will impact on iconic native species including the brush tail rock wallaby and long-nosed potoroo.”

Ms McArthur described the ideological and cultural motivation behind the proposal as a fantasy that restoring dingoes would create a pristine ecosystem.

Victorian Minister for Agriculture Mary-Anne Thomas acknowledged a motion from Southern Grampians Shire Council against the inquiry’s recommendation, saying there was no current proposal to introduce dingoes to the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park.

National Wild Dog Management Coordinator Greg Mifsud said research into the psychological impact of predation revealed landholders were affected by the long-term impacts of wild dogs, suffering emotional stress and mental health issues similar to returned servicemen.

The research into the psychological impacts of predation can be accessed here.