Landholders in Western NSW will be relieved of paying annual dog fence fees, with the NSW Government announcing it will cover the $1.718 million annual rate bill for farmers to help maintain the fence.
At the moment, pastoralists who have over 1000 hectares of land in the Western Division pay about 5.5 cents a hectare towards maintenance of the fence. For most farmers the cost is about $2000 a year.
The move, revealed exclusively to The Land, will be a bonus as the crushing drought continues in NSW.
NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said the move would alleviate a cost on landholders in the Western Division as they are experiencing some of the worst drought conditions in the state.
“The announcement means more than 1300 landholders will get a break to help them in this trying time,” Mr Blair said.
“The NSW Government provides annual funding to maintain the border fence along with rates levied on Western Division landholders, but in 2019 we will also cover the annual rates.”
The ‘dog fence’ as it is more generally known, extends more than 600 kilometres along the borders of NSW with Queensland and South Australia to protect landholders in NSW from incursion of wild dogs from the adjoining states.
Pastoralists say the fence is vital to the survival of the sheep industry in southern Australia. The system of paying for the fence is currently under review.
Pastoralists’ Association of West Darling (PAWD) president Lachlan Gall, “Langawirra Station”, applauded the news of the dog rate relief and said it had been done in previous droughts. He urged the Government to also consider suspending the western lease rates to help take pressure off farmers.
“Dog Fence (and Western Lands Lease) rates were waived for a number of years during the Millennium Drought, and waiving rates is an equitable way for government to offer relief to landholders facing severe drought conditions in the Western Division,” Mr Gall said.
“However, it is vitally important that government picks up the tab for Dog Fence rates on behalf of ratepayers, as rates are the primary means of securing the funding necessary to support maintenance of the fence in dog proof condition.
“I am hopeful that government will consider waiving Western Lands Lease rates, in recognition of the impact of severe drought conditions on pastoral businesses in the Western Division.”
The Dog Fence was the front line protecting all livestock industries across NSW.
Nationals candidate for Barwon Andrew Schier said the fence is essential for maintaining a viable sheep meat, wool and rangeland goat industry in the region, as well as protecting native fauna from wild dog predation.
“Landholders in the area are experiencing severe drought conditions, so assistance with their dog rates means there is one less thing for them to worry about,” Mr Schier said.
Mr Gall provided this history on the dog fence to The Land: “The livestock industry in NSW owes much to the existence of the Dog Fence, which protects the sheep, wool and goat industries from the ravages of wild dogs.
“Before 1900, wild dogs were widespread throughout the Western Division, and up to 1000 sheep could be lost in a month on individual properties. In response, the unsuccessful rabbit proof fence built along the QLD and SA borders in 1890 was converted to a dog proof fence in the early 1900s. At various times in the early years maintenance of the Dog Fence was sub-optimal for a number of reasons (including inadequate resourcing, floods, drought in 1918-20 and the 40’s, and a shortage of materials after World War II), resulting in incursions by significant numbers of dogs.
“The number of scalps presented to Pastures Protection Boards rose from 10 in 1942 to 760+ in 1953, and losses of lambs to dogs at Yandama Station between 1948 and 1957 was estimated at 8,560. The Minutes of Pastoralists’ Association of West Darling (PAWD) meetings from 1948 to 1957 are littered with complaints about the unsatisfactory condition of the Dog Fence and the difficulties of adequately supervising maintenance of the Fence from an office in Sydney.
“This situation eventually led to the establishment of the Wild Dog Destruction Board (WDDB) in 1957 by amendment of the Wild Dog Destruction Act, driven by a reform process led by local pastoralists, Pastures Protection Boards and PAWD. Establishment of the WDDB involved the transfer of assets from the Crown to the WDDB, and moving management of the Dog Fence from Sydney to Broken Hill.
“Following establishment of the WDDB, the Dog Fence was quickly put in order and has been maintained in good condition since, aside from unavoidable damage due to floods, dust storms and animal impact, which has been repaired as soon as possible. Nowadays, the Dog Fence is in the best condition of its entire lifetime.”