Wire and steel fence posts are proving to be the economic backbone for Central Western Queensland, creating employment and manufacturing opportunities, and stabilising population decline.
A dedicated effort by the Central Western Queensland Remote Area Planning and Development Board (RAPAD) and landholders has resulted in 2.2 million hectares protected from wild dogs by barrier fencing over the past six years.
The cost of fencing has been offset by the long-term community benefits of job creation, improved landholder wellbeing, increased wool production and property investment, economic boost for ag service providers and stemmed population decline in the Central West.
Predator proof exclusion fencing has revived the regional sheep flock in the shires of Barcaldine, Blackall-Tambo, Longreach, Winton and Barcoo, growing an estimated 45.7 per cent in 2015-16 to 2018-19.
This compares with the statewide sheep flock, which grew by 15.8 per cent over the same period.
After four rounds of combined federal and state government funding under the Queensland Feral Pest Initiative (QFPI) in the region there is now:
– 41 fencing clusters
– 168 landholders involved
– 4020km of fencing (at an average of $10,351/km)
– 2.257 million ha fenced
An evaluation by consultants Hall Chadwick has revealed sheep numbers in the region have grown by 727,000 and cattle by 57,000, with a corresponding increase in regional gross margin by $28 million.
This has in turn generated 140 jobs in agriculture, and a total regional economic benefit of $33.55 million.
The QFPI contributed $11.8 million in funding and was matched by landholder funding of $29.7 million. The return on the government money is $2.38 for every $1 of funding.
Applications are now being processed for a fifth round worth $2.2 million in QFPI funding for Barcaldine, Longreach, Blackall-Tambo, Winton and Barcoo Shires.
RAPAD aims to increase fencing to 15,000km and the protected area to 10 million ha.
RAPAD senior regional development manager Morgan Gronold said the cluster fencing initiative was developed by sheep producers to protect the region’s sheep and wool industry, with support from regional councils driving the process to control population decline and boost regional economies in western Qld townships.
“The producers looked at a couple of fencing models including a check fence model or a big circle around five shires, through to the present unregulated cluster fence model based on a volunteer program,” Mr Gronold said.
This model was developed by the local producers with assistance from industry and National Wild Dog Management Coordinator Greg Mifsud, and formed the basis for the state government’s Feral Pest Initiative fencing guidelines.
“The cluster fence model provides control of your finances, time, mental health and well being. Cluster fencing gave people something to focus on and deliver during drought,” Mr Gronold said.
This article was first published in The Fence magazine.