State Barrier Fence Esperance extension remains $2 million short

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and Nationals leader Michael McCormack. Photo: Supplied.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and Nationals leader Michael McCormack. Photo: Supplied.

The State Barrier Fence Esperance extension project remains more than $2 million short, according to the Esperance Biosecurity Association. 

Association chairman Scott Pickering said his organisation was still trying to reduce costs and would pursue federal funding following commitments by the Esperance and Ravensthorpe shires and the state government.

Mr Pickering said he had a discussion with Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and would speak to O’Connor MP Rick Wilson about the project.

“We are looking at every option to try and raise funds,” he said. 

Mr Pickering said it was not necessary to wait for the remaining funds to be secured to start construction.

“It’s at the [state] EPA now, if that comes out in our favour, we want the government to start building the fence.

“It's going to take three years to build.

“We believe the state government should start it instead of sitting on their hands because we’ve been trying to get this up for 14 years.”

Labor MLC for the Agricultural Region Darren West said association members should lobby their federal member.

“The Federal Government can come up with $8.7 million to refurbish a boarding house with 26 students,” he said.

“I think Rick Wilson might get on the phone with [Federal Finance Minister] Mathias Cormann to see why there’s a hold up for this important project.”

Mr West said the state had begun the necessary processes and believed there were still some months before environmental checks were finished.

“Surely the Federal Government will come to the party in that time. 

“Should that not be the case, we’re going to have to make a decision then.”

WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan thanked the Esperance Shire for their commitment and said the state recognised how important the project was for the region’s farmers.

“Earlier this month, [Minister] Littleproud said he wanted to ‘stop these pests in their tracks, especially wild dogs’, a fence is a pretty good start,” she said.

Mr Littleproud said pest and weed management was a state responsibility.

“Despite this, the Coalition Government has committed some $6.4 million to combat pests and weeds in WA. 

“This is on top of the $1.03 million for the WA Wild Dog Action Plan.

“It’s time for state governments to prove their relevance and stop abdicating their responsibilities.”