VICTORIA’S Department of Environment and Primary Industries says it has nine dogmen in the field in the North East.
Back in 2010, there were 11 dogmen battling the escalating wild dog problem and now there are two or three less depending on how you view it.
Dogmen are essential for running trap and bait lines along with answering farmers’ urgent pleas for help when attacks happen.
A spokesperson for Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh was asked for the exact number of dogmen in the state and approached the department.
Initially the response was 23 and then it increased to 24 with 15 allocated in Gippsland and nine in the North East.
Actually there are eight full-time dogmen and a recently employed casual learning the trade.
There are two situated at Corryong, two at Tallangatta and one each at Ovens, Mansfield, Alexandra, Sandy Creek and Whitfield.
In recent months, Ian “Bluey” Campbell has been on long service leave creating a further void around Tallangatta.
Ray Vinge worked around Corryong before quitting in 2011 when the department insisted on him spending more hours in the office on computers rather than being out in the field catching dogs.
The region’s wild dog co-ordinator Andy Wernert moved from the Department of Primary Industries to Sustainability and Environment soon after and was replaced by Greg Ivone, who previously worked as a dogman at Ovens.
The department subsequently terminated the employment of Xavier Kirk at Tallangatta and Maurice Moore retired last year.
Mr Walsh acknowledged at a meeting in Tallangatta last November that the region was three dogmen short.
He gave a commitment to find replacements once a review of the Department of Primary Industries was completed, but said it was a management issue rather than a ministerial matter.
Nine months later the positions have not been filled and three approaches have been made by The Border Mail to the department for answers.
Each time there has been a garbled response from spin doctors with the essential question on replacements not answered.
The latest of these came from DEPI’s executive director of biosecurity Cassandra Meagher.
“Staff absences due to departures, illness and extended leave are routinely addressed across the program through the redirection of other wild dog controllers and the engagement of suitably qualified casual and contractor staff,” she said.
“This facilitates the delivery of a more effective wild dog program including timely responses to wild dog incident reports from landholders suffering from livestock attacks and the flexibility to address changing program needs.
“In line with this approach, DEPI has engaged casual staff and contractors to address current program requirements.”
Her claim of “a more effective wild dog program” is laughable.
When told of the comment, one farmer responded: “They live in fantasy land.”
Bill Tilley, the member for Benambra, said the decisions and comments on dogs rested with Mr Walsh and the department.
But he did concede his government had made promises and commitments which have not been kept.
“I can understand the frustrations of the farmers,” Mr Tilley said.