The Department of Agricultural and Fisheries through the Queensland Feral Pest Initiative (QFPI) committed funding to support drought-affected sheep and wool producing areas across Queensland.
Since 2015, the Queensland Government has allocated $24.08 million to regional communities across Queensland for the construction of cluster fencing in areas with high wild dog density and other invasive plants and animal control and capacity building projects. This funding has been complemented with a $13 million investment by the Federal Government.
In partnership with local governments, Natural Resources Management groups and industry representatives, QFPI announced funding towards cluster fencing, with the ultimate goal of bringing large numbers of sheep back to Queensland and revitalising the sheep and wool industry, by jointly tackling wild dog control management.
By joining forces with neighbouring properties and forming groups – referred to as clusters – landholders are able to combine the efforts of ongoing wild dog control management within the fenced cluster area. In doing this, the total fence line distance is minimised, thus reducing the initial cost and ongoing maintenance costs.
Besides securing livestock and businesses against the threat of wild dogs, the QFPI cluster fencing program is making an investment in the development of regional communities.
Cluster fencing helps to minimise wild dog impacts, one of the major challenges for landholders, making the move back into sheep and wool a realistic proposition. The cluster fence is noted to also build confidence in landholders to diversify their enterprise, in the hope of increasing resilience to price fluctuations with the hope of bringing income streams that are spread out over the year.
By removing or minimising the worry about the threat that wild dogs pose to their livestock and livelihoods, and reducing the amount of time and effort expended on the issue, cluster fences may also contribute to boosting the mental health and wellbeing of landholders and their families.
After a period of time, lambing rates have been seen to bounce back to sustainable levels, which, along with flock numbers increasing, improvements in stock condition and more plentiful fodder, has provided hope to landholders facing down the challenges of drought. Landholders' ability to invest in their businesses, diversify their enterprises and increase land productivity has also been increased.
Building a cluster fence generates employment opportunities within the region and the increase in meat sheep and wool enterprises brings seasonal and long-term sustainable jobs on farms and in the wider community. New employment opportunities allow for new families to move into regional communities, bringing with them skills, trades and professions and allowing for the natural growth and diversity within the economy.
This can result in more people spending their money at local retailers, growth of population, the boosting of enrolments at local social clubs, sporting teams and schools, and the increase of local services.
The QFPI cluster fencing program is supporting regional communities by empowering landholders and communities as they work towards turning the long-term trend of decline into a story of resilience and growth.