THE recent outrage from farmers about wild dog attacks on their sheep has deepened to a broader debate about whether changed staff roles within the Local Land Services (LLS) could be making the situation worse.
This comes on the back of reports of emerging areas for wild dog attacks within the North West LLS as being Carroll, Mt Kaputar, Walgett and the County of Finch (near Lightning Ridge) – and ongoing heavy losses of sheep in the Wallabadah area.
Gunnedah shire farmer Neville Swain, of Kilphysic, near Carroll, has led the debate, saying that expert dog trappers like Brad Gallagher, under the new LLS organisation structure which commenced in January, had been taken off dog-trapping duties and put to work spraying weeds.
Mr Swain also said North West LLS ranger Wayne Garnsey, of Manilla, “can’t give out baits because he’s had his classification changed” and that someone now had to drive from Tamworth to deliver baits.
He also said the Gunnedah ranger from the former Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA) had now gone.
But Shaun Slattery, manager of biosecurity and emergency services at the North West LLS, defended the stance being taken by his organisation.
Dr Slattery said the former Gunnedah ranger had accepted a redundancy when the LHPA had folded.
The LLS’s role, like the former LHPA and the Rural Lands Protection Boards before it, acted in an advisory capacity only.
It was up to individual landholders to deal with dog attacks, he said.
The LLS was not funded by government but used ratepayers’ money and there was a limit to what could be achieved.
“It is not our responsibility to rid the world of dogs; it is our responsibility to assist landholders,” Dr Slattery said.
Prior to the formation of the LLS, two reviews undertaken to look at how travelling stock routes (TSR) were managed “were critical of TSR management, saying it seemed to be mixed in with everything else”, Dr Slattery said.
“As part of the state LLS restructure, they said staff would no longer report to the TSR boss and the biosecurity boss,” he said.
“They said what we need is people who were rangers were to be divided into biosecurity or TSR; the same goes with field assistants.”
Mr Garnsey and others “don’t travel out to people’s places to lay baits”.
“People need to talk to a trained biosecurity officer ... who has the legal right to advise on 1080 and issue 1080,” Dr Slattery said.
“We’re not saying there’s no dog trapping – we’re saying that dog trapping will be supplied by trained staff in the appropriate circumstances.”
Margaret and Peter Forsyth, of Chilcotts Creek, Wallabadah, have lost one-fifth of their 2000-sheep flock this year alone and have trapped 30 dogs in the past six years – including four this year.
Mrs Forsyth pleaded with the North West LLS to “bring back Brad”, saying her husband was a woolclasser and travelled to other farms to do woolclassing and “hasn’t got time to set a trap”.