A modified aerial baiting program to combat wild dogs in South Australia's pastoral regions has begun this week, and the first successful tenders for the Dog Fence rebuild have been awarded.
The aerial baiting program will reduce the impact of wild dogs inside the Dog Fence and is being delivered as part of the Marshall Liberal Government's $21 million drought support package.
The first two contractors to be awarded tenders for the $25 million Dog Fence rebuild are South Australian business Burra Fencing Contractors and Elders Rural Australia Limited.
The first section of the rebuild involves 11 kilometres of complete rebuild and 15 kilometres of new lap mesh.
Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said the management of wild dogs in South Australia remains a priority despite the challenges presented by COVID-19.
"COVID-19 may have slowed down many activities across South Australia, but wild dogs continue to be active. We've had reports from some pastoralists that wild dog impacts have been particularly high in recent months, and this is made worse by the ongoing drought conditions," said Minister Whetstone.
"The impact of wild dogs on the pastoral regions is significant, costing livestock producers almost $90 million across Australia every year, so it's vital we continue with our integrated approach to wild dog control.
"The modified aerial baiting program will reduce the impact of wild dogs inside the Dog Fence by focussing on priority areas. The program minimises any related COVID-19 risks to regional South Australia by ensuring there will be minimal face-to-face interaction between staff, with pilots using isolated accommodation.
"Aerial baiting is just one aspect of our integrated wild dog control approach, which includes the $25 million Dog Fence rebuild project, the bounty which pays pastoralists $120 per wild dog killed on their land, and an expanded trapper program.
"The rebuild of the South Australian Dog Fence is a once-in-a-century project to help strengthen our agricultural sector, and it's continuing on schedule with work expected to begin by the end of the month. I'm pleased to announce the appointment of our first two contractors on the project, Elders Rural Australia Limited, and Burra Fencing Contractors."
Federal member for Grey Rowan Ramsey said it's exciting to award the first tenders under the Federal Coalition Government, State Liberal Government and industry collaboration.
"I am delighted to have been able to extract a commitment of $10m from the Federal Government to support this infrastructure project which will protect the sheep business in SA for the rest of this century," said Mr Ramsey.
"Our pastoral areas have been dealing with a long, drawn-out drought which has put a great strain on businesses and extra pressure on the Dog Fence. This project will provide extra employment opportunities while limiting the impact of wild dogs on our $4.5 billion livestock industry. By the third year, we expect that it will create up to 63 full-time jobs.
"It is particularly pleasing that both tender recipients will be supporting local jobs with Burra Fencing Contractors based in the mid-north of South Australia and Elders Rural Australia Limited supplying Australian made Waratah mesh."
Director of Burra Fencing Contractors David Miller said it was fitting that a local South Australian company would be part of building the first section.
"We've worked in the North East pastoral country adjacent to the Dog Fence for many years, and we're proud to use our local knowledge on this important project, which is bringing jobs and money into regional South Australia," said Mr Miller.
The areas that will be aerially baited in May are based on reports of high wild dog activity and stretch from Coober Pedy to the North East Pastoral District, with the aim of stopping wild dogs moving further inside the Dog Fence.
A further aerial baiting program is planned for either spring 2020 or autumn 2021.
The rebuild of the Dog Fence is being funded by the State Government ($10 million), the Commonwealth Government ($10 million) and the livestock industry ($5 million).