A REPORT on the SA Dog Fence released today by the state government demonstrates that spending $25 million to replace sections that are more than 100 years old would generate a return on investment of up to 48 per cent.
The BDO EconSearch report was jointly commissioned by the state government and the SA Dog Fence Board to seek a cost-benefit analysis for the upgrade. It contains some worrying figures for the state's livestock industry, including pastoralists' wild dog management costs quadrupling from $2.3m to between $10.6m to $13.95m by 2038 if no replacement occurs.
Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone said replacing sections of the ageing fence would generate a net benefit to the state of up to $120.3m across 20 years.
"It will not be easy finding the money to rebuild the fence, but I am willing to have that discussion with farmers and I appreciate the constructuve talks on this issue with the Commonwealth government, led by federal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey," he said.
Mr Ramsey said funding at the federal level would depend on the upcoming budget but he felt there was good support from federal agriculture minister David Littleproud.
“He’s become an enthusiastic supporter of getting some kind of program in place but we are competing with thousands of other worthy projects,” he said.
“It’s imperative this work is done because the fence is beyond it’s use by date.
“Having new doggers in place is really good but having that work done south of the fence will be a waste to time unless we have a secure fence holding the hordes back. This is not just about protecting pastoralists, the dogs will penetrate far into the south unless something is done. I don’t think any sheep producer in SA is safe unless repairs happen."
Livestock SA president Joe Keynes said the report showed repairing the Dog Fence offered multiple benefits to pastoralists, the broader sheep industry, regional jobs and conservation.
"If we don’t fix this Dog Fence we’ll have a decreasing sheep industry in the north but it will also have long-term implications to the whole of industry," he said.
In the past 16 years, less than 5 per cent of the Dog Fence has been replaced.
Mr Keynes said it was disappointing there had not been an ongoing replacement policy in place.
"Once the fence is repaired, we need a longer term strategy," he said. "We need to factor in long-term maintenance and make sure there’s funding available so we can keep the fence as secure as possible."
Call for action on key structure
NORTH-EAST pastoralist James Morgan says the baiting program and trapper funding have been a success but it is "time for action" on upgrading the ageing Dog Fence with the state's $2 billion sheep industry at risk.
"The dog fence has been a sleeping protector of the state and it has just been sitting in the background doing its job, but now it's not doing its job," he said.
"We are starting to see dogs infiltrate further south and if nothing is done large numbers of producers will have to go out of sheep."
On Mulyungarie Station, which has the Dog Fence as its northern boundary, the Mutooroo Pastoral Company managing director says they have shot and trapped 360 dogs in the past year and another wave is moving through now.
"We have seen so much (state government) money going into infrastructure projects in urban areas and we are missing out all the time so this is a great chance for this government to deal the cards," he said
An industry-led proposal by Livestock SA and the SA Dog Fence Board suggests about $10 million from state government is needed across five years to be matched by $10m in federal government funds, along with $5m from growers.
Mr Morgan says producers need to recognise the fence's importance as a barrier for all of SA.
"It needs to be acknowledged that if southern regions would like the option of trading sheep from the north, particularly from Jamestown, the dog fence is a significant factor in the long-term viability of northern flocks," he said.
"We are at the coalface so we are happy to contribute the most but collectively a little bit of money from everyone adds up to a lot."