The Dingo Fence or Dog Fence was originally built in the 1880’s by State governments, initially to stop the spread of the rabbit plague across State borders. This proved to be a wasted effort and the fences fell into disrepair until 1914 when they were repaired in order to keep the dingoes out and protect the sheep flocks. The original fence was completed in 1885. In the 1940’s, the fences were joined together to form one continuous structure, which was recorded as the longest fence in the world. Until 1980, the fence was 8,614 kilometres long, but was then shortened to 5,614 kilometres. The fence stretched from Jimbour on the Darling Downs near Dalby through thousands of miles of arid country to the Eyre Peninsula on the Great Artesian Bight.
The Wild Dog Barrier Fence, previously called the Dingo Barrier Fence, was first proposed in 1948 to protect sheep from wild dog attacks. However, erection was not completed until the late 1950’s. Originally Landholders along the proposed line were informed that wire netting would be landed on their properties free of cost if they established the Barrier Fence to specifications and maintained the fence thereafter. A contribution would be made to the annual maintenance cost of the fence. Six Inspectors stationed at Cunnamulla, Boulia, Cloncurry, Hughenden, Charleville and Brisbane supervised construction and maintenance of the fence.
Up Until the early 1970’s much of the Barrier Fence was generally maintained, however regular instances occurred where pressure had to be applied to landholders to maintain the fence. In their defence, landholders cited poor economic conditions, changes in land use, damage by fire and flood, difficult terrain for fence maintenance and the successful use of baiting for dingo control.
In 1982, a $3.6 million State government program was implemented to rebuild almost half of the original Barrier Fence (2,125 kilometres of the original 5,600 kilometres). This program also realigned a large section of the fence to exclude previously protected areas in central-western and north-western Queensland. This meant that the Barrier Fence would only provide protection from wild dogs in central-southern Queensland. The current Wild Dog Barrier Fence is the result of that program.
In addition to the main Barrier Fence, a number of check fences were reconstructed and renewed in the southern Darling Downs area. Today, the Wild Dog Barrier Fence is administered by the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries. It is about 2,500 kilometres long and protects 26.5 million hectares of sheep and cattle grazing country. There are also Barrier Fences in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia.
Travel along the Dingo Barrier Fence is not permitted without prior authority from both the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries and each individual landholder.
History of the Darling Downs–Moreton Rabbit Board Fence
When rabbits first reached Queensland in the 1880’s from the southern States, a fence was quickly constructed along the border in an attempt to keep them out. Unfortunately, the rabbits had already invaded some districts before the fence was completed. Some of the invaded districts had inadequate financial and technical resources to cope with the problem and went bankrupt. Many other sections of the fence fell into disrepair and ceased being a barrier to rabbits.
In 1930, all existing Rabbit Boards were abolished except three – the Leichhardt, Darling Downs, and Moreton. In 1963, the Leichhardt Rabbit Board closed and the Darling Downs Rabbit Board took over 80 kilometres of the fence, extending it west of Chinchilla. The following year, the Darling Downs Rabbit Board merged and became the Darling Downs-Moreton Rabbit Board (DDMRB). The fence is now 555 kilometres long and stretches from Lamington National Park in the east to Goombi in the south-west where it connects to the Wild Dog Barrier Fence. It protects about 28,000 square kilometres within southern Queensland. The DDMRB Fence provides a unique form of protection against the incursion of rabbits, and has successfully prevented the establishment of rabbits within its boundaries. If rabbits are found within the fenced area, they are eradicated.
The barrier fence is constructed using wooden posts, strainers, star pickets, wire and different types and sizes of netting. The fence line is cleared on both sides to a width of five (5) metres. Floodway fences are constructed using heavy cable.
The fence stands 1.8 metres high, and extends for 30cm underground with the netting at ground level laid a further 1.5 metres along the ground. Wire netting is secured at ground level using straight timber logs placed on the downstream side of the fence. Star Pickets are spaced every 9 metres. The fence is held together by Gripples. Grids are of similar construction as Department of Main Roads grids.
At first the fence was unsuccessfully used to try to keep out rabbits, with the fence built as a rabbit proof fence, however it was more successful at keeping out kangaroos, emus, brumbies and pigs. Parts of the Dingo Fence are lit at night by 86mm cold cathode fluorescent lamps, which are alternately red and white. They are powered by long life batteries, which are charged by photovoltaic cells during the day.
A trial is being conducted on a buzzer to be used as a deterrent to stop dog’s crossing over grids. If this proves to be a success, more research will take place to see how viable these would be as a replacement for grids.
Staff and Funding
Barrier Fence staff consists of 21 employees:
- A Project Officer who oversees all components of the Wild Dog Barrier Fence
- Two Inspectors (1 situated in Quilpie; 1 in Roma) who supervise Patrolmen on their sections of the fence
- One two-person Flying Gang (for immediate repairs of flood/fire damage and renewing aging or deteriorating sections)
- Eight two-person Patrols (for ongoing maintenance).
Each two-person crew has approximately 300 kilometres of fence to maintain so that every section is patrolled once a week. Fully equipped Depots are situated at Quilpie and Roma. Today, the Wild Dog Barrier Fence is funded through contributions from Government of approximately 50%, and from Industry (via Local Government contributions) of approximately 50%.
The dingo is a primitive canine related to wolves and coyotes. The dingo is not a native of Australia. Though its origins are not clear, it is thought to have arrived in Australia approximately 4,000 years ago. It is the largest mammalian carnivore remaining in mainland Australia, and as such fills an important ecological niche.
The dingo has been regarded as a serious predator of domestic stock since early European settlement in Australia. A large percentage of the dingo population is no longer purebred but is the result of crossbreeding with domestic dogs. Yellow and tan are the dominant coat colours, though dingoes can vary from pure white to black. Dingo numbers are believed to be higher today than in pre-European times. Dingoes have only one breeding season per year (April to June). They occupy a single area known as the “home range”, and in an undisturbed area, generally run in packs of 3-12 members.
The sheep industry cannot co-exist economically with an unmanaged dingo/wild dog population. Despite frequent baiting and trapping by local graziers in response to dingo attacks, landholders are presented with a sometimes-constant population of wild dogs. Dingoes and wild dogs are declared animals under the Rural Lands Protection Act 1985 and it is illegal to keep, breed or sell dingoes or dingo hybrids. There is an individual $30,000 Fine for each of the following offences: Keeping Dingoes; Breeding/Liberating Dingoes; Selling Dingoes; Introducing Dingoes from Interstate, with a further $225 on the spot fine for feeding Dingoes.