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Farmers celebrate pest-proof fence start

Work on a long-awaited 660km pest-proof fence development will start today, marking the end of a 20-year battle led by farmers to protect livestock and crops in the Goldfields-Esperance region.

WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan is set to arrive in Ravensthorpe this morning ahead of scheduled construction starting on the State Barrier Fence’s Esperance extension.

The first post driving into the dirt at the fence’s current termination point, near Ravensthorpe, will conclude Esperance region farmers’ 19-year campaign for the project’s $11 million development.

Cascade grain-sheep farmer Scott Pickering has long fought in favour of the extension, which has been subject to environmental approvals and funding issues, to nullify wild dog attacks on sheep.

Despite being amid a busy seeding schedule this week, Mr Pickering said he was eager to make the 125km trip from Cascade to Ravensthorpe for the construction’s launch.

“I’ve waited almost 20 years for this today… there is no way I would miss it,” he said.

“This is just huge for our farmers and a day we have been waiting for, for ages.”

The State Barrier Fence will extend 660km from its end point 25km east of Ravensthorpe, north around Salmon Gums and terminate east of Esperance, near Cape Arid National Park, once complete.

The region’s sheep producers expect the development will safeguard flocks from ravaging wild dog, while grain growers hope it will protect valuable crops from emus.

Esperance Tjaltjraak Aboriginal Rangers will be involved in the first 8.5km of fencing in an effort to bolster the group’s contracting prospects.

Ms MacTiernan said the extension would shore up confidence in the sheep industry, while teaching Esperance’s Tjaltjraak traditional owners new skills.

“It has been a massive collaborative effort to get us to this point, and we pay tribute to local farmers like Scott Pickering, who have advocated for this project for years,” she said.

“We want to double the benefit from this landmark project: it will also support employment and training opportunities for local businesses and for Aboriginal people.”

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud committed $1 million to the Esperance extension while in Ravensthorpe in March, raising its kitty to $9.5 million.

In April, the McGowan Government poured a further $1.5 million into the $11 project to cover the shortfall and WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson gave the green light to its environmental approval.

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