Central West graziers pledge to outspend Government cluster fencing investment and deliver COVID-19 recovery jobs

Seventy-one central west Queensland graziers have pledged $11.6 million to match the Palaszczuk Government’s $5 million cluster fencing commitment, boosting sheep numbers by more than 270,000, creating 57 new jobs and boosting local wage bill by $3.8 million each year. 

The data from the Remote Area Planning and Development (RAPAD) Board’s recent Round 5 cluster fencing expression of interest (EOI) found:

  • applications were received from 71 landholders;
  • to fence 1997 kilometres;
  • to protect 1,188,069 hectares;
  • a 57 net increase in jobs;
  • would see an expected 273,002 sheep (87,470 before – 360,472 after);
  • a $3.8 million of new wages each year;
  • a total of $5.23 million of funding from the State Government needed; and
  • would be matched by a $11.6 million landholder contribution.

RAPAD Chairman and Longreach Regional Council Mayor Cr Tony Rayner said the commitment of $5 million, announced by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Agriculture Minister Mark Furner as a COVID-19 recovery measure, was well-received by local landholders and they are keen to turn the funding into fencing and jobs,

“It’s about more than a fence. It’s about creating jobs and rebuilding our communities.  We welcomed the Premier and Minister Furner’s announcement and the recognition that cluster fencing immediately supports construction jobs and ongoing increased profitability,” Cr Rayner said,

“RAPAD urges the Government to fast-track its $5 million so landholders in the central west can start erecting fences, returning sheep and creating local jobs without delay.”

“The funding commitment generated considerable attention so RAPAD released an EOI to fast track the process.  The EOI’s response once again clearly demonstrates the ongoing demand for fencing here in the central west due to high wild dog density.  This is even more important now to assist our region respond to the impacts on COVID 19.”

If funded and combined with previous rounds, it would deliver:

  • 164 net increase in jobs;
  • An expected 1.3 million sheep, 828,241 more sheep (sheep numbers before 480,507 and after 1,308,747);
  • $11.5m of new wages each year;
  • $60.1m increase in gross income from sheep;
  • $2.91 benefit per year every year from every $1 spent by Government;
  • 90c increased Gross Margin per year to landholders for every $1 one off expense on the fence;
  • See 206 landholders fencing 5,272km to protect 2,771,111 ha; and
  • Approximately 14% of the RAPAD region fenced in clusters providing a catalyst for more private fencing.

Andrew Cochrane, manager at Isis Downs south of Longreach, is one of those who participated. “Isis Downs has a long and proud history in the sheep and wool industry, but we had to exit the industry.  If exclusion fenced, it is anticipated we will diversify by adding sheep and goats to our operational mix.  This diversification will mean a much greater demand for labour and the supply of goods and services in our local towns,” Mr Cochrane said.

Winnie Batt, part of the Hillpenside Cluster north of Barcaldine, is another who participated in the EOI. 

“Wild dog activity has dramatically increased in our cluster area.  All four cluster members have, at great time and expense, increased baiting, trapping and surveillance on our properties, but the dogs just keep coming.  Without a cluster fence, the future of our sheep flocks is in jeopardy. After fencing we would expect the clusters sheep numbers to double. This would however do more than double our productivity as we would expect our weaning rates to increase and the condition of our land to improve,” Mrs Batt said.

Cr Rayner reinforced this message outlining “this funding is about more than a fence, this is regional economic development.  It’s about creating jobs in the region, empowering people, and giving them back control of their time, finances and wellbeing, and delivering the most significant industry infrastructure for decades.”

“RAPAD made the commitment last year to approach Government asking for an additional $5m for cluster fencing and the Premier followed through.  This EOI data demonstrates to Government the ongoing desire and economic return more funding will bring to our region,” Cr Rayner said.

“As part of the EOI we extended the criteria to include those northern shires as well and it’s fantastic to see landholders in the Flinders and McKinlay shire keen to be involved. The more sheep we can get back in the west the better off all our communities are."

Cr Rayner also outlined how he feels the per kilometre funding should increase to $4000 per km, from $2700 per kilometre, to keep up with costs for fencing and to maximise economic spend in the outback.

“One kilometre of fencing is now $4000 a km, maxi’s are close to $25 each with plain steelies around $15, that’s easily $2000 per km for posts, and these costs are with the materials just sitting on the back of a truck still to be put up. The more money offered as an incentive means more people are going to fence and that’s what we need to get our communities back on their feet especially post COVID-19,” Cr Rayner said.

“I invite the Premier and Minister Furner back out to the west to once again meet with landholders and see the success the fencing is delivering.”

 

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