In a response received last week from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) it was confirmed that assessments for the State Barrier Fence Esperance Extension were still ongoing and the Assessment Report for the Minister for Environment were expected by the end of 2018.
Following the release of the EPA’s Report, a two week public appeal period where an appeal against the content and recommendations of the report can be lodged with the Minister for Environment through the Office of the Appeals Convenor.
The Minister for Environment will then consider the EPA’s Report and any public appeals before determining, in consultation with other Ministers, whether the proposal will proceed, and if so, under what conditions.
WAFarmers Livestock Council representative and Esperance farmer Scott Pickering said that the extremely long process was a detriment to the Esperance community, in particular the farming community.
“In late 2017 stakeholders were again asked to submit responses to the State Barrier Fence Esperance Expansion Assessment Process which concluded in January 2018. Prior to this, environmental impact assessments were undertaken and concluded that there was no requirement for offsets as there were no significant residual impact on flora, fauna or heritage was identified”, Mr Pickering said.
“Assessments have proved the Esperance Expansion fence will have little impact on the fauna and flora within the area so any further delays in building the fence are hard to justify. The drawn-out process has delayed the building of the Esperance Extension and looks to delay it for another 12 months.
“It is critical that the Esperance Expansion Fence is built as soon as possible to avoid further demise to the welfare of livestock within this very important and productive agricultural area of Western Australia.
Mr Pickering said the majority of the proposed fence extension area, around 420 hectares, will be established on already cleared land which has chained firebreaks on the immediate edge of the farming land.
“Approximately 120km of the 660km fence will be located on farmer’s boundary fence lines. Only 140km of the 660km long fence extension will require new clearing totalling approximately 300 hectares of the 16 million hectares of Greater Western Woodland, representing a loss of only 0.002 percent.
“Currently one of the greatest risks to the Woodlands is bushfires and the firebreak maintenance due to the fence extension will greatly reduce the risk of fires and their devastating impacts on the environment in the area as we witnessed in 2016 with the Esperance bushfires.
“Furthermore, the fence extension will incorporate new construction techniques that are designed to protect all animals from getting stuck in or under the fence, unlike the original state barrier fence, which was built to stop the huge destruction to grain crops caused by emu stampedes.
“Given the number of assessments and public consultations already completed, WAFarmers believes the building of the Esperance Expansion Fence could start now on private land, an opinion also supported by Minister for Agriculture Alannah MacTiernan.
“WAFarmers urges the EPA to provide the permission needed so that work can finally start on building the Esperance Expansion Fence.”
Note to Editor:
It has been determined that the cost benefit ratio of building the Esperance Extension Fence is 6.6 and 4.8 to the Ravensthorpe and Esperance regions, respectively; (Peterson & Cooke 2016) and the building of the fence will assist ambitions to increase the value of the agri-food sector by 2020 by minimising socio-economic impacts, (Strategen Environmental – State Barrier Fence Esperance Extension PER).