The original fences (numbers 1, 2 and 3) were constructed between 1902 and 1907, and were known as the Rabbit Proof Fences, intended to prevent rabbits from moving into the State from the east.
As the significance of the fence to block rabbits decreased, it later became known as the State Vermin Barrier Fence, the Emu Fence and now the State Barrier Fence.
The History of the state vermin barrier fences, formerly known as rabbit proof fences (1969) provides an overview of the early history of the fence.
Prior to 2010 the State Barrier Fence was primarily an emu barrier. Upgrades to the fence, including the installation of lapwire brought it up to wild dog-proof standard.
Today, the fence plays an important role in preventing the entry of wild dogs into the south-west of Western Australia and the large migration of emus from the rangelands into the south-west agricultural areas, which can affect grain crops.
State Barrier Fence and wild dogs
Wild dogs have become a significant threat to livestock enterprises in agricultural areas since the 1980s, with wool in decline and fewer staff in pastoral areas carrying out control.
The State Barrier Fence is playing an important role in supporting the efforts of landholders, who are ultimately responsible for controlling wild dogs on their own properties. The State Government, through the DPIRD, is also supporting landholders through initiatives under the Wild Dog Action Plan.
Regular surveys of landholders along the State Barrier Fence have shown that the investment in upgrading the fence is having a positive impact on wild dog management.
Extensions to the fence
Esperance Extension to the State Barrier Fence
A 660km extension of the State Barrier Fence will extend eastwards from its current termination point near Ravensthorpe, extending north around Salmon Gums and terminating east of Esperance near Cape Arid National Park.
Following an environmental review period and subsequent approval by the Minister for Environment on 15 April 2019, construction of an initial 60km began on 23 May 2019. Information about the review is available from the Environmental Protection Authority.
The Esperance Extension has been supported by successive governments, with initial scoping for the project undertaken as far back as 2011.
The Esperance Extension is an investment priority identified in the Wild Dog Action Plan 2016-2021, and the updated 2021-2025 Plan.
The $6.9 million State Government investment is part of a broad range of measures to support the Western Australian livestock industry to combat wild dogs. Contributions to the project have also been made by the Federal government and the Shires of Esperance and Ravensthorpe.
On-ground works will commence in January 2023. These works will join 63kms of sections of fence within the western alignment completed in 2019-20.
Closing the Yilgarn Gap
In 2014, construction was undertaken to complete the 170km section of the State Barrier Fence which runs through the Shire of Yilgarn, east of Southern Cross.
A gap known as the Yilgarn gap existed due to the original number 1 State Barrier Fence being realigned around Southern cross.
The Yilgarn gap existed for approximately 50 years before it was closed in 2014.
About $3.5 million of Royalties for Regions funding was allocated towards closing this 50-year-old gap.
Construction over five months involved the installation of 24,600 steel posts, more than 600 strainer assemblies, 170km of plain wire, fabricated fence installed to a height of 1.4 metres, and the installation of lapwire to prevent wild dog incursions.
Ongoing maintenance is needed to keep the fence functioning as an effective barrier against wild dogs and other animal pests. DPIRD is responsible for maintenance, which includes minor repairs, replacing fence wires and posts, small fence constructions, re-hanging gates and clearing the fence track.
DPIRD has engaged Aboriginal businesses to undertake this work to provide job opportunities and build capacity for Aboriginal people. The entire State Barrier Fence is inspected on a regular basis.