Barry Davies has been appointed to the new Statewide Community Engagement Officer role, to manage the operational and community aspects of the wild dog program.THE Victorian government has split the operations and policy of wild dog management between the two super-departments.
Operational and community management is under the jurisdiction of staff in the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
Policy is being implemented by the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, which includes the agriculture portfolio.
A government spokesperson said the State Agriculture Minister, Jaala Pulford, was responsible for biosecurity policy direction, which comes under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994; but the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water, Lisa Neville, administers the CaLP Act.
Victoria’s integrated wild dog control policy recognises wild dogs are a declared pest animal in this State and landholders have to prevent its spread and eradicate it from their land.
However, Victoria’s policy also recognises the dingo as a threatened and protected species and that wild dog programs can impact on dingoes.
Victoria’s policy differentiates where the animal is roaming on private land or on public land within a 3km radius of any private land boundary or leased public land – in these circumstances the dingo is not protected under the Wildlife Act.
In the new split between operations and policy, it is unclear how the existing wild dog control program can be implemented.
A government spokesperson told Stock & Land the separation would enable the government to explore more integrated, sustainable and cost-effective opportunities to link the wild dog program with other public land programs.
Meanwhile, the position of statewide regional manager for Victoria’s Wild Dog Program is being filled on an interim basis and Barry Davies has been appointed to the new statewide community engagement officer role, to manage the operational and community aspects of the wild dog program.
Mr Davies, a former sheep farmer, managed the wild dog program in Western Australia before spending the last three years with Parks & Wildlife in Tasmania’s wilderness.
In WA, Mr Davies was responsible for managing the 1200km wild dog fence in a policy that was focused on managing the impact of wild dog predation rather than eliminating the feral pest.
He is bringing that same interest to his new role.
“I’ll be encouraging farmers to carry out fencing and community baiting works,” Mr Davies told Stock & Land.
“My overarching role is building links with farmers.”
Mr Davies admits the initiative of Australian Wool Innovation to commit funding in recent years to a national community baiting and trapping program has helped farmers enormously.
In Victoria, 17 community groups laid 33,112 ground baits last year and 18 government wild dog controllers laid 17,876 ground baits while 4005 aerial baits were also dispersed.
Wild dog controllers accounted for 480 wild dogs killed – 290 in Gippsland and 190 in Hume in the north east – and members of the public handed in 587 wild dog scalps, with the largest quantity (250) delivered to Bairnsdale.
Mr Davies hopes to keep building on that successful program and identify gaps in delivery.
Last year, Victoria’s then Coalition government declared the 3km buffer zone was no longer enough to control wild dogs and extended the geographic reach of its employed and contracted wild dog trappers.
Mr Davies said last week the government’s wild dog controllers would have to apply to the relevant Crown land manager for permission to track a wild dog or lay baits on public land beyond the 3km buffer zone.
“I’ll be working with individual farmers and groups to find out what their problems are with wild dogs,” he said.
“One of my challenges is getting to those people who are doing nothing – cattle farmers and absent landholders say the baiting and trapping doesn’t need to occur on their property because they don’t have sheep.
“I’ll be talking to them about how everyone participating makes a difference.
“There is a strong emphasis on nil tenure, so everyone is involved in the program,” he said.
“For example, when a farmer in the north east erected 6km of electric fence, his next lambing more than paid for the cost.
“It cost him $8000 to erect the fence and as a result of his next lambing, he recouped $8000 plus 25 per cent.
“So I’d like it if other farmers would understand the advantages of investing in electric fences and I’ll be engaging them in conversations about that.”
A previous State Government ran a program to subsidise the cost to farmers of erecting electric fences and many producers in East Gippsland and Northeast Victoria benefited from that program to continue breeding sheep.
However, there is no such cost recovery program available now.
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