RAPAD Queensland Feral Pest Initiative (QFPI) Cluster Fencing Project
After three rounds of QFPI funding managed by RAPAD it is delivering:
- $9.85m in Government funding in three rounds;
- $24.27m committed by producers;
- Producers spending 73% on average of the total cost of the fence;
- $34.12m total project;
- $2.77 per year every year from $1 Government spend;
- 138 landholders participating;
- Fencing 3376 km;
- Protecting 1,910,259 ha from wild dogs;
- Will see sheep numbers grow from 389,272 to an expected 895,266;
- An expected increase of 502,668;
- Will see lambing rates grow from on average 22% to an expected increase of 75%;
- Will generate an expected $6,000,000 in direct shearing, crutching and lamb marking wages per annum from the new expected total sheep numbers.
It’s a lot of land, It’s a lot of wire, It’s a lot of money but its MORE THAN JUST A FENCE
Wild dogs cost jobs and livelihoods for many in the Australian agricultural sector. Each year millions of dollars’ worth of livestock are killed or maimed by wild dogs. In western Queensland alone, the region has seen a 75% drop in sheep numbers.
This negative impact reaches beyond the farm and into the social and economic fabric of outback communities. Populations are declining, employment prospects are dwindling, shop fronts in the main streets are increasingly vacant and there is little economic stimulus.
The term 'wild dog' refers to purebred dingoes, dingo hybrids (a mixture of domestic dogs and dingoes) and domestic dogs that have escaped or been deliberately released and now live in the wild. Wild dogs are identified by Australia’s National Vertebrate Pests Committee as an extreme species meaning they are a recognised pest that is both widespread and established throughout Australia. Wild dogs can kill more animals than they need for food, which is referred to as surplus killing. The continual influx of domestic dogs into the wild means there is a constant feral population and there are probably more wild dogs, including dingoes, now in Australia than ever. (Australian Centre for Invasive Species Solutions, 2018)
The sheep industry requires more people, which means more jobs, which means more money circulating through a town, which means more opportunities in services, education, employment and social life.
Between 2011 and 2015 the population of central western Queensland between 0 and 54 years dropped by 12.5%. The problem worsened in 2014 when all seven councils of the RAPAD region were fully drought-declared. That drought declaration is yet to be lifted and the region is experiencing the worst drought in history. Under the pressures of wild dog attacks, population decline and drought the community came together to work on turning their situation around.
Meetings were held across the region searching for a solution because it was clear to all that continuing with business as usual would result in no business and no one to do business with. Community leaders and wool growers admitted they could not break the drought, but they could protect their remaining sheep from wild dog attacks and be ready to capitalise on extraordinary growth once the drought broke.
In 2016, 2017 and again in 2019 RAPAD councils operating through the Queensland Feral Pest Initiative (QFPI), was successful in its bid to deliver projects under the Australian Government Pest Animals and Weeds (AGPAW) program for cluster fencing arrangements in areas with high wild dog density.
With the support of RAPAD and QFPI, neighbours agreed to work together to build 1.5-metre-high fences around groups of properties. These fenced clusters of land now had a physical barrier to stop wild dogs entering their properties and attacking sheep.
At the end of round two an area larger than Hong Kong had been protected behind the fences.
Aside from being able to control the number of wild dogs on their properties and protect sheep the fence:
- Creates jobs and grows employment opportunities
- Enables wool growers to have better and more predictable productivity, in turn offering stable and predictable employment
- Provides more stability to the community in terms of long-term work and economic surety
- Grows school numbers, boosts sporting teams, brings people with skills to the region
- Reduces the amount of time wool growers need to be out looking for wild dogs and maimed sheep and allows them to use that time on other areas of the farming operation
- Removes the constant emotional stress producers were experiencing during lambing when dog attacks happened every night
- Enables people to become better equipped to withstand future drought events.
Once the fences are built, the proportion of lambs surviving the vulnerable period after their birth increased in some properties from 30% up to 80%. That’s more than doubling the number of lambs surviving through to maturity.
It’s a result to be proud of but the project's aim is not just about protecting lambs, it’s long term goal is to be the catalyst for achieving significant improvement in the profitability of regional businesses both rural and non-rural, a more stable community, social growth, and better environmental and biosecurity control.
See interviews with various cluster group members on the RAPAD Youtube site