Victorian Wild Dog Management Advisory Committee appointments spark a dog fight

The Victorian Farmers Federation fears the Victorian Wild Dog Management Advisory Committee is a wolf in sheep’s clothing with a hidden agenda.

Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford announced the seven-member committee on Wednesday, which included dingo preservation advocate Ernest Healy from Monash University but overlooked VFF wild dog spokesman Peter Star.

The VFF wanted assurances from the minister wild dog eradication would be the focus. 

“This is a wild dog committee not a dingo rehabilitation committee,” VFF Livestock president Leonard Vallance said.

“What is the purpose of this committee? Is it to control wild dogs or is it about having a warm and cuddly rehabilitation program for the Australian dingo?

“If they want to have a separate rehabilitation committee for the wild dingo well that’s good but this committee is supposed to advise the government on the best means of removing the wild dogs from the Australian environment.

“They are in conflict with one another.”

Professor Healy has dismissed the concerns.

“I think the VFF is jumping the gun on this,” Dr Healy said.

“It’s clear they’re upset at not getting a guernsey on this committee but, having said that, I know the majority of the appointments to the committee are representative of landholders.

“It’s not as if the conservation people on the committee, including myself, constitute a majority.

“We don’t have the numbers so why the VFF is panicking about this I’ve really got no idea.”

However he did confirm conservation was among the committee’s brief.

“It’s quite clear that the brief to the chairman is not only to consider the interests of stakeholders, although that’s important and essential and will remain so, but to also look at some of the conservation and environmental aspects of the issue,” Dr Healy said.

“So these two things have to be sensibly balanced in some way and that will be the work of the committee.

“But there’s no work plan let. Why the VFF at this point is raising the issue of releasing dingoes I’ve got no idea.

“I mean that may never become part of the work plan of the committee. I don’t know why they’re raising that.”

Mr Star, who farms in the Granya district, was shortlisted for the committee which comprises Alan Brown (Orbost), Simon Lawlor (Omeo), Michael McCormack (Tallangatta Valley), Paul Carroll (Mudgegonga), Dr Healy and Euan Martin Ritchie (Deakin University). It will be chaired by former Department of Environment and Primary Industries executive director Ron Harris.

“Ron Harris is an experienced person as chair, a VFF member, but Peter Star is our dog person,”  Mr Vallance said. 

“He’s elected to a position in the VFF to represent our views on wild dogs and we’re disappointed that Peter’s been omitted from the list of the producers. 

“There seems to be an emphasis on the reintroduction of dingoes as an apex predator into the environment.

“If you do that before you eradicate the wild dogs they’re simply going to cross breed with the wild dogs, and breed a super dog.”

Mr Star said the North East was well represented on the committee and he has worked closely tackling the problem with Mr McCormack over many years, both farmers have held wild dog advisory positions in the past, but he said wild dogs were a state-wide problem.

“There’s wild dog problems in North West Victoria but there’s no landholder representatives from that part of the world,” Mr Star said.

“I think the reality is the VFF, along with others, need to be in the room.

“There’s no farm industry based representation on that committee which is disappointing.”

The VFF will seek to have Mr Star instated as an observer.

“We’re all hoping to get Peter there because his level of expertise and his ability to report to the VFF land use committee and the livestock council.

“It’s rather disappointing this focus has been moved onto dingo rehabilitation and not the eradication of wild dogs.

“Another issue overlooked is there’s no accounting for the mental trauma farmers go through when they have their stock destroyed by dogs.

Sheep after being attacked by wild dogs in the south Tallangatta area.

Sheep after being attacked by wild dogs in the south Tallangatta area.

“It’s a fairly horrific thing to be confronted with and the farmer usually has to destroy a number of stock with a rifle whilst they’ve had half their insides ripped out of the back legs ripped off.

“It’s one of the most ordinary jobs in the world and has a terrible toll on the farmers.”