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The State Barrier Fence of Western Australia - CENTENARY 1901 2001

The State Barrier Fence, previously known as the Rabbit Proof Fence, the State Vermin Fence and the Emu Fence, has undergone many transformations in its lifetime, keeping rabbits, wild dogs, emus, kangaroos and other feral animals away from our agricultural and pastoral areas. The fence runs from the Zuytdorp Cliffs north of Kalbarri around the perimeter of the agricultural district south to Jerdacuttup in the Ravensthorpe Shire, a total of 1170 km. It remains a key device in protecting Western Australia's $4.3 billion agricultural sector from devastation caused by animals, and is jointly managed by the Department of Agriculture, the Agriculture Protection Board, the State Barrier Fence Advisory Committee, local shires and stakeholders. The Department of Agriculture and the Agriculture Protection Board wish to cordially thank the following for their committed contribution and ongoing support:

4L Design, Chidlows ABC Radio - TV Angus & Robertson Anketell family, Perth Apryl Longford, Quairading Avon Valley Bakery, Northam Avondale Discovery Farm, Beverley Brendan Watson, Northam Burracoppin Sports Council Calammunda Camel Farm, Kalumunda Conservation and Land Management magazine 'Western Wildlife' Co-operative Bulk Handling Corporate Theatre, Belmont Countryman Crawford family, Perth

Cullam-Prime SAMM, Jerramungup Cummins Theatre, Shire of Merredin Department of Agriculture/ Department of Commerce and Trade magazine 'Network News' Department of Commerce and Trade magazine 'Regions WA' Department of Land Management, Midland Dorothy Hind, Burracoppin Edwin Freeman-Smith, Northam Elders/Farm Weekly Gerard Sermon, Grass Valley Graeme Barrett-Lennard, Beverley Grant Woodhams, ABC, Geraldton Gren Putland, Northam Hon Hendy Cowan, MLA, Member for Merredin Hoyts Cinema Centre, Perth John Barnett, Channel 9 News, Perth June Parsons Keith Choules, Albany Kondinin Group Link Theatre, Northam Local and regional papers MacGregor B Napier, Attadale Main Roads Western Australia Merredin Mercury Nancy Gordon, Ravensthorpe Paul Thompson, ABC, Geraldton Phil Lucre, Bedfordale

Potters, Furniture and Restoration, Merredin Public Sector Management magazine 'Intersector' RM Williams Rob Ives Rosalie Crook, Mukinbudin Shire of Kondinin Shire of Merredin Shire of Mt Marshall Shire of Mullewa Shire of Narembeen Shire of Northampton Shire of Ravensthorpe Shire of Westonia Shire of Yilgarn Shirley McCall, Merredin Motel and Gum-Tree Restaurant State Centenary Committee Sunday Times Syd Crees, Burracoppin Syd Hopkinson, Nedlands The Link, Silverchain Newsletter The West Australian Way Signs, Northam Windsor Lodge, Como

The State Barrier Fence has played an important part in the lives of many people. We sincerely thank those of you who have contributed treasured photographs, memorabilia and information to this project.

State Barrier Fence Centenary Celebrations

Saturday 18 August 2001 Burracoppin & Merredin 12.30 pm - Burracoppin Celebrations organised by the local community commence at 12.30 pm at the Burracoppin sporting complex. Activities include camel rides, Clydesdale horses, old machinery, old-fashioned games and more! 3.30 pm - Re-enactment Boundary riders dressed in period costume will depart from the Burracoppin sporting complex and make their way to the launch site on camels. 4.00 pm ­ Information board launch The Hon Hendy Cowan, MLA, will officially launch the State Barrier Fence `Information Board'. This will take place 2km east of Burracoppin on the Great Eastern Highway, where the original No.1 Rabbit Proof Fence commenced. 4.30 pm - Centenary afternoon tea Complimentary afternoon tea will be served back at the Burracoppin Sports Pavilion. 7.00 pm ­ State Barrier Fence Centenary Dinner, Bates St, Merredin Tickets @ $45/head are available from the Cummins Theatre, Merredin on 9041 3295. Accommodation - overnight visitors

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Potts Motor Inn Ph: 9041 1755 Merredin Motel Ph: 9041 1886 Merredin Olympic Motel Ph: 9041 1588 Merredin Oasis Motel Ph: 9041 1133 Merredin Caravan Park Ph: 9041 1535 (chalets on site)


The State Barrier Fence of Western Australia - CENTENARY 1901 - 2001

YESTERDAY - The Rabbit Proof Fence Rabbits were introduced into Australia as a 'harmless' addition to hunting sport in 1859, when Victorian grazier Thomas Austin imported 24 rabbits from England and released them on his property. He said at the time: "The introduction of a few rabbits could do little harm and might provide a touch of home, in addition to a spot of hunting." The rabbits soon multiplied and spread throughout Victoria, New South Wales, southern Queensland and South Australia. By 1894, they had advanced across the Nullarbor Plain and reached Western Australia's border. The increasing rabbit population impacted severely on farmers, with rabbits eating crops and pastures, and costing the farming community dearly. The threat became so serious that a Royal Commission was held into the situation in 1901. As a result, explorer and surveyor with the Lands and Survey Department, Alfred Wernam Canning, examined the country under threat and determined a survey line for a barrier fence commencing at Burracoppin. In late 1901, private contractors were enlisted to build a barrier against rabbits to stop them invading the State - and so the erection of the world's longest fence began. In August 1904, the fence project was handed over to the Public Works Department led by supervisor Richard John Anketell. More than 400 men were employed as part of the labour gangs. As construction proceeded, the advancing rabbits continued to make their way west. In an effort to stop these advances, two more adjoining fence lines were commissioned in 1904 and 1906. Building the fence was a difficult task at the turn of the century, as transport and materials were crude. Some 8,000 tonnes of materials were carried by ship and then railed to depots, before being hauled overland by horse, camel and donkey teams to the remote fence construction sites. The fence was made of four plain wires and wire netting. The bottom section of netting was dipped in a hot coal tar and kerosene mix to stop the wire from rusting under the ground. Fence posts were cut from trees adjacent to the fence line, but where there was no timber, steel posts were used. Gates were installed every 34 kilometres (20 miles) to provide access for transport. Yard traps were also erected every eight kilometres (five miles), which were used to capture the rabbits by funnelling the animals along the fence line.

The Rabbit Proof Fence, including No.1, 2 and 3 fence lines, was completed in 1907 and stretched 3,256 kilometres (2,023 miles). At that time, the cost of the construction of the fence line was about $250 per kilometre (£167 per mile). The responsibility of maintaining the fence was handed to Acting Chief Inspector of Rabbits, Alexander Crawford, from the Department of Agriculture. Mr Crawford's team included four sub-inspectors and 25 boundary riders, who travelled the fence line using bicycles, camel buggies and horse drays and spent their nights in huts located every 48 kilometres (30 miles) along the fence. The Fence today (2001) Heading into the new century, the fence runs from the Zuytdorp Cliffs north of Kalbarri to Jerdacuttup in the Ravensthorpe Shire, providing: "an efficient and effective barrier to aid in the management of migratory emus from pastoral areas into agricultural land." It also offers a baiting corridor for wild dogs; a barrier and traffic facility for feral goats; a 20m firebreak between agricultural and pastoral areas; and a barrier for feral and domestic animals in the event of an exotic disease outbreak. Steel posts and pre-fabricated netting have replaced much of the traditional netting and the wooden posts, although some still stand. Each year about 30 to 35 kilometres, or around three per cent of the fence is replaced. The Agriculture Protection Board, Department of Agriculture and the State Barrier Fence Advisory Committee now oversee the operation and maintenance of the fence. Despite the adoption of new technology and modern agricultural production, the State Barrier Fence continues to play an important role in protecting farmers' livelihoods, as it has done for more than 100 years.

State Barrier Fence - Significant events

1901 1907 1907 1916 Construction on Rabbit Proof Fence commences at Burracoppin Rabbit Proof Fence completed Department of Agriculture responsible for fence maintenance Chief Inspector Alexander Crawford recommended that the No. 1 fence be practically abandoned due to enlistments for war and difficulty in obtaining materials First vehicles used along the fence Thousands of rabbits hit the fence north of the Murchison. Rabbits had spread over the entire agricultural districts within the fence system Emu Migration sparked by near drought conditions. Government paid bonus of two shillings per beak, and shires matched to four shillings. Result was trafficking in emu beaks and shooters along the fence. Two good years of rainfall attracted thousands of rabbits. Agriculture Protection Board established Rabbit numbers had been kept in check by myxomatosis and poison. Worst flooding in the history of the fence hindered maintenance. Decision to maintain the fence as a Dog Proof Fence More than 100,000 emus gathered along the northern section of the fence in search of feed. 40,000 emus counted on eastern section of the fence and 15,000 on the northern section. State Barrier Fence Advisory Committee formed (7 local farmers and 2 board members). audit completed that showed the majority of the fence was in good condition and if a maintenance program was introduced it's future would be in good shape, annual audits are now carried out on the whole fence 90km (30km/yr) of fence has been replaced; 11.5km rewired; 55.5 reported totalling 158km (53km/yr); 500km of maintenance track graded; two emu traps built; about 300km perennial plants sprayed; 165km neighbouring fence removed to provide fire break Centenary of State Barrier Fence plans to replace a further 25km of fence this financial year; erosion repairs and grade another 150km of fence maintenance track

1920s 1927 1930s 1930s

1944 1950 1958 1960s 1964 1976 1994 1997/98 1997


2001 2001/02

The Rabbit Proof Fence - Important Recommendations

Vol 13 (1906) Journal of Agriculture WA Mr Day inspected 800 miles of fencing, and formed the opinion that the fences were well constructed and maintained, and were absolutely proof against any influx of rabbits as it was possible to make them. In his opinion a thoroughly efficient fence could have been erected at a considerably less cost by lengthening the panels and eliminating the bottom wire. The construction, however, he states, is on the safe side. Referring to the hanging of the netting, Mr Day approves of the putting of the netting 6 inches down straight from the surface, instead of doubling up and putting as a flange on the outside, as has been repeatedly advised. In the latter method he considers there would be considerable danger in light sandy soil of the bottom of the netting being laid bare through drift, and the rabbit thereby being afforded an excellent opportunity of burrowing under the fence. With regard to the posts, he considers that they might have been sunk a distance of from 18ft to 20ft apart without interfering with the efficiency of the fence. The timber used was good and substantial, with the exception of the salmon gum, which might possibly be affected by the white ants. The gates, he thought, were good ones, and in most cases well hung. They were, however, unnecessarily substantial. He recommends that all metal approaches to gates should be thoroughly blinded and rammed, so as to preclude the possibility of stones getting jammed between the gate and the sill, thus leaving an opening for the rabbits to get through. He was also of opinion that the gates to the south of Burracoppin were absurdly small, and too far apart. He recommends that more gates be erected of a size sufficiently large to allow a horse team and wagon to go through. Referring to the floodgates, he points out that the danger from flood missing piece at bottom of page was intersected by numerous creeks and shallow watercourses, and in time of flood they would prove a constant source of danger. The principle adopted in South Australia, he states, where creeks and watercourses crossed the fence, was, instead of erecting flood-gates, to erect an independent piece of fencing across the watercourse with the netting attached on the downstream side of the fence, first taking care that the water was diverted into as narrow a channel as possible. When the flood came the netting was washed down, possibly the whole piece of the fence, across the watercourse, but that did not affect the main fence. He thought the flood-gates adopted here were good, but what appeared to him to be a source of danger was that the gates were simply hung on to a twisted galvanised wire erected above the water level, the idea being that as soon as the flood came down and the debris collected against the netting the weight of the debris and water would straighten out the wire hooks, and the gate would fall right down, and be only held at the bottom of the creek. This had been found to work satisfactorily, but the danger did not arise from the floods, but from the emus and kangaroos that rushed the fence when there was no flood. Another objection to flood-gates was that, although the posts in the watercourses were put down in some places 4ft, and packed in with stones and rubble, they would not stand the combined rush of water, his experience being that the constant swirl round the bottom would soon wash out any post, no matter how well erected. In any case, he was of opinion that the floodgates would have to be much more securely fastened than at present. Another defect which Mr Day noticed in this connection was that in many cases, instead of the fence crossing the creeks at right angles, they crossed at a very acute angle. It had, he stated, always been found wise to make the length of fence liable to damage by flood as short as possible. The traps erected along the fence were, he considered, satisfactory, and the only improvement he could suggest was that the bottom of the bugles or funnels should be right on the ground and some earth sprinkled in, in order to quite cover the netting on the bottom of the bugle, and thus make a firm pad for the rabbits to walk on.

He also recommends that between the wings of the traps some low scrub or herbage should be allowed to grow, in order to make the traps less conspicuous to the rabbits. Rabbit Destruction In dealing with the question of rabbit destruction, Mr Day first briefly touches on what has been done in the Eastern States, and refers to the finding of the Royal Commission appointed to investigate the various schemes put forward for the extermination of the rabbits as a result of an offer by the New South Wales Government of £25,000 bonus to anyone who could successfully demonstrate such a possibility, that no finality in rabbit destruction could be obtained without making the erection of rabbit-proof fences compulsory. In regard to the destruction of rabbits between the two fences, Mr Day prefaces his recommendation in this connection by the remark that he fully realises the heavy expenditure which would be involved but missing piece at bottom of page taken, in a very short time the area will become infested beyond the hope of its ever being practically cleared of vermin. His recommendation is as follows: That a sweeping movement be initiated, comprised of two parties of rabbiters, say 20 in each party, to be spread along each side of the railway line, one party working north and the other south, each party to be in charge of two overseers, whose duty it would be to scour the country ahead of their parties and direct the operations of the rabbiters. To do this it would be necessary to have proper equipment of camels and drivers, or other means of transport, to carry water and shift camps, each party to be supplied with poison, traps, and dogs. If good men were employed, and the overseers were thorough bushmen, Mr Day had no doubt splendid results would follow. It would also be necessary to arrange for every settler within the area to co-operate with the Government parties in the movement. Mr Day estimates that it would take three months to accomplish the action and the cost would be about £5,000. Of the methods of destroying rabbits generally adopted, phosphorised pollard is recommended by Mr Day as being the most effective, and one of the cheapest. Strychnine and arsenic are also recommended as very useful for poisoning twigs and water, the latter placed in troughs along the fences and supervised by the boundary riders. Cyanide of potassium is also stated to be good for poisoning water. The IXL poison cart is also strongly recommended for the use of boundary riders and rabbiters. Three of these carts have already been ordered, but have not yet been received. Maintenance of the Fence The question of the maintenance of the fences Mr Day considers one of the most important, and emphasises the necessity for the employment of trustworthy and reliable men for the work, and mentions in this connection that one of the greatest safeguards to the efficiency of the fence is the destruction of the vermin that come on to it. With the exception of the 463 miles of fencing erected by contract No. 1, he found that the average length allotted each boundary rider was about 50 miles, and this, in his opinion, was a fair length for each man to look after, but on the 463 miles there were 14 boundary riders at £208 per annum, each having an average length of fence of 33 miles, which, in his opinion, was certainly not enough for each rider. Nine boundary riders would, he thought, be quite sufficient, more especially as this fence was practically free from watercourses. He considers that if the boundary riders inspect the whole of their line twice a fortnight that ought to be sufficient. Mr Day recommends that a chief inspector be appointed with four sub-inspectors under him, each sub-inspector to be given charge of a district, and his duty to be not only to see that the fence is kept in proper order and condition, but also to deal with the destruction of rabbits in his district, and have control of the trappers working in the district.

Mr Day suggests that the Government could recoup themselves for the expenditure by a tax upon the land. To pay it off in 20 years, including interest, the rate would be £7 7s 2d per £100, interest reckoned at 4 per cent or at the same rate of interest in 42 years, at £4 16s per cent per missing piece at bottom of page can be levied, and what it would cost per 1,000 acres in various districts, the cost varying from 2s 6d to 19s per thousand, according to the district and the amount of land held in it. The total cost of maintenance, exclusive of the departmental salaries, Mr Day works out at £120,000 per annum, or £6 a mile per annum. Administration The present Act in operation, Mr Day considers, requires amendment in some important particulars. One is the definition of barrier fences (section 3), especially with reference to sections 41 to 43. It was, no doubt, he points out, intended to make rabbit destruction compulsory between the two fences, therefore it is necessary to remove the liability anyone is under who has a rabbit in his possession anywhere within this area. At the same time, he thinks a clause should be inserted making it a criminal offence for anyone to liberate or attempt to liberate any rabbit, and he would also recommend that it be an offence to even keep rabbits in enclosures. As regards compulsory rabbit destruction, Mr Day thinks that if this be necessary it is only right that the Government should accept their position as occupier of the Crown lands, as it would not be fair to compel the private landowners to destroy rabbits while on the adjoining Crown land nothing was being done to reduce their numbers. It is also suggested that advances for wire netting should be done through roads boards. At the present time anyone wishing to obtain an advance of wire netting from the Government has to mortgage his property; this adds to the expense of the transaction. Mr Day points out that by an alteration in the Act this advance can be made a first lieu on the land, taking precedence over all ordinary mortgages, thus saving expense to those wishing to obtain wire netting without reducing the value of the security. Mr Day further recommends that the Act be amended to allow of the use of 18-gauge wire netting in lieu of 17gauge, which would reduce the cost per mile considerably. It is suggested that all police constables in the country should be authorised persons under the Act, and should investigate any report as to the presence of rabbits, and then communicate the result to the Rabbit Department. Also, that the Government should supply poison for rabbit destruction at cost price, or, in badly infested areas, if necessary, supply poison to those who cannot afford to purchase for themselves. Mr Day strongly deprecates the opening up of reserves along the fences to public traffic, and suggests that any infringement of this rule should be severely dealt with.

Report on Rabbit Branch - 1907

The Under Secretary for Agriculture

The three rabbit-proof fences have now been constructed by the Public Works Department and handed over to me for maintenance. The first or No. 1 fence starts at Starvation Boat Harbour, on the Great Australian Bight, 70 miles West of Esperance, and runs almost due North, crossing the Goldfields line near Burracoppin, and then right up to the ninety-mile beach, on the Indian Ocean, about twenty miles North of Condon, a total length of 1,155 miles. The No. 2 fence, which was next constructed when it was found that rabbits had got ahead of the No. 1 fence, starts at Point Ann, 130 miles East of Albany, and runs in a Northerly direction slightly bearing Westward, crossing the Goldfields line near Cunderdin, to Yalgoo, when it turns Eastward and joins the No. 1 fence at Gum Creek, 320 miles North of Burracoppin. This fence is 724 miles in length. The No. 3 fence starts from the No. 2 fence, about 20 miles North of Yalgoo, and runs due West to the Indian Ocean, which it joins at Bluff Point, a total length of 171 miles. The total length of fencing now constructed is 2,050 miles, and this completes the scheme of fencing approved of to the present time. The maintenance staff consists of a Chief Inspector, 4 Sub-inspectors, who have about 500 miles of fencing in their charge, 25 boundary riders, or about one boundary rider to each 100 miles of fencing. In the extreme North where the natives are dangerous there are 300 miles of fencing, where the boundary riders go in pairs as it is not safe for one man to travel alone. There are at present three repairing gangs grubbing and making some necessary repairs, but after this year these will not be required only under exceptional circumstances. There are two camel-drivers, who distribute rations, and three rabbiters employed in destroying rabbits. Early in January a gang of men will be employed to the North of Northampton in trying to eradicate some colonies of rabbits that have found their way to the coastal sandhills there. During the year rabbits were reported as having appeared inside the No. 2 fence at Coorow, on the Midland Railway; rabbiters were immediately sent there and the rabbits destroyed, and examination made some nine months after failed to find any fresh traces of rabbits. Rabbits were reported at Mullewa also inside the No. 2 fence, and it is believed these have also been eradicated. The only known rabbits inside the No. 2 fence are those North of Northampton, and it is hoped these will be completely destroyed before the summer is over. Between the No. 1 and No. 2 fences in some places rabbits are fairly numerous, especially in the Northern portion, but very few have as yet reached the No. 2 fence, only three having been reported as being caught in the traps. The tendency seems for the rabbits to make North more than West. In the North-West to the North of the No. 3 fence and West of the No. 1 fence there are rabbits that have got ahead of the No. 1 fence; they have been reported almost 100 miles West of the No. 1 fence in the Upper Gascoyne District. Settlers in this North-West District will need to take prompt and active measures if they wish to keep the pest down.

There seems to be a tendency on the part of many settlers to expect the Government to destroy the rabbits on their properties, instead of starting to do it themselves as soon as rabbits are discovered as they are supposed to do under the Rabbit Act. The Act is being strictly enforced, and will be, and all offenders will be prosecuted. The fences are all in good order, well maintained, and, as a rule, inspected twice a week, except in the far North, where they are inspected once a week. On the outside of No. 1 fence rabbits are very thick in places, and in some parts they have eaten everything edible, and thousands have died of starvation. They have been reported as far North as Mount Cecilia, or within 70 miles of the Kimberley border. The height of the netting above ground averages from 2 feet 10 inches to 3 feet, and the depth underground 6 to 8 inches, except where the ground is sandy, and then it is 12 inches below the surface. There is a top wire 12 inches above the netting, in the South this is mostly a plain wire, but where there is stock a barb wire has been used, and a number of settlers have been given permission to put in an extra barb wire between the top wire and the netting, and thus making the fence dog-proof. Private individuals under certain conditions are allowed to join their fences to the Government fence and use it as a boundary, and for such part of the Government fence an annual rent of 25s per mile or part of a mile is charged. There is no traffic allowed under any circumstances on the track along the fences, and any persons found trespassing are prosecuted. The damage done to the fence by teamsters and the travelling public in vehicles was so great in the way of knocking down posts and damaging the netting that the most stringent measures had to be adopted. At distances along the fence of about five miles yard traps are erected for catching rabbits, and in some places the rabbits were so numerous that as many as 1,500 to 1,800 rabbits would be caught in 50 miles in these traps in a month. Of late in the Southern part of the No. 1 fence the rabbits have been comparatively scarce, and in some traps only 20 or 30 a month have been caught. To the Eastward of the No. 1 fence, South of Burracoppin, rabbits have decreased in numbers in an extraordinary degree in the past two years, and where thousands were to be found a year or two ago there are scarcely any to be seen now. At one time they were so numerous that they practically ate themselves out and starved, and fresh contingents have not yet arrived from the East. Between the Nos. 1 and 2 fences rabbits are found in small colonies from the coast right up to the Northern end of the fence, and for a time rabbiters were employed trying to keep these in check, but as it is impossible to get the last two or three rabbits, the majority of which are always does, it was decided not to continue the rabbiters, as to be of any service it would require an army of men, and as more bucks were caught than does it was only increasing the number of young ones. No rabbits have been found to the West of the No. 2 fence in the agricultural districts, although some have followed the Murchison River down, and reached the coast at the South of the Murchison River at its mouth, and have then travelled as far South as Lynton, which is about 20 miles North of Northampton. Rabbiters are employed there at present, but it is found they will not be able to exterminate them, as they have gone into the thick scrub on the sand hills along the coast.

To the North of the No. 2 fence and West of the No. 1 fence in the Murchison and Gascoyne country, a good many rabbits have found their way, and in one or two instances they have actually made warrens, but from some cause or other these have mostly been deserted within a year or two. Settlers should refrain from killing iguanas, which are most deadly enemies of the rabbit. I have found five good-sized young rabbits inside a large iguana that had been accidentally killed by the buggy wheels going over it. Dingoes also kill large numbers, and so do the large hawks. The Government has lately decided to give the Rodier system of dealing with rabbits a trial in this State. That is, killing off all the doe rabbits possible, and allowing the buck rabbits to go free. This system is so called after a squatter in New South Wales, who was the first to introduce it and who practised it on his own station near Cobar, and was able to deal with the rabbits in his run at a very small expense, while his neighbours were almost ruined by the pest. Where the bucks are plentiful and the does scarce the males tease and worry the females to such an extent that they become sterile and do not breed, often they die and the bucks kill all the young ones they can find. In poisoning and trapping as a rule more bucks are killed than does, as from the habit that the bucks have of resorting to one place to pass their excrements it is easy to trap them, and a decrease in the bucks mean more prolific does. It is recommended then that all persons who catch rabbits alive should allow the bucks to go free, cutting off say one ear so that in case of shooting they can be identified. The principle is scientifically correct, and if a large number of does are destroyed the remaining bucks will do more to keep the rabbit pest down than any other measure that can be adopted. For this reason settlers destroying rabbits are recommended to try and catch all they can alive instead of poisoning or shooting. In speaking of the prospects of the rabbits becoming a serious pest in this State I am judging from the experience of 25 years in various parts of Australia, and from a close study of the question for some years past. With the present fences kept in good order, regularly patrolled by boundary riders, proper inspection, and the co-operation of the settlers all over the State, I am thoroughly convinced that the farmers have but little to fear and those inside of or to the West of the Nos. 1 and 2 fences, practically nothing. That there are rabbits between the two fences, and a very considerable number, cannot be denied, and the farmers there will have a continuous, although not necessarily severe, fight to keep the pest down. The fight may be maintained by the individual with success, but it will cost him much more than if he co-operates with his neighbours. Wire netting in the holdings will cope with the rabbit and be expensive. Wire netting in groups of holdings will cope equally well with the rabbit, and at only a small proportion of the expense that would attach if each individual provided wire netting for himself; for instance, with rabbit-proof netting at £27 per mile, for the netting alone it would cost for a 1,000-acre farm, 100 chains x 100 chains, £135. If 10 people joined together to net 10,000 acres the cost of the netting would be £740, or to each of them £74, as against £135. If 100,000 acres were netted in, the cost of the netting would be £1,350 or £13 10s for each 1,000 acres, and that would only represent a block of land 12½ miles x 12½ miles. Thus, by co-operation, instead of the individual having to pay for the netting to fence in his 1,000 acres, £135, if 100,000 acres were fenced in by a combination of settlers, the netting would only come to £13 10s for each 1,000 acres. I would, therefore, strongly recommend that before any person purchased netting to fence in his holding he should try if he could not get one or more of the settlers in the district to join with him ­ the more the better ­ and thus have the work done at the minimum of cost.

But even if the rabbits did get in and become the pest they are elsewhere, the farmer can always deal with them. It is the large run holder who will suffer most, especially those who have large areas of poor country where grazing capacity is so small that it would not pay to fence in their holdings: these are those who will suffer most, and it is the squatters who have suffered most in all the Eastern States. In land that suits the rabbit up to the present the destruction of rabbits by poison, trapping, shooting, etc., on such places has not been successful without the use of netting, and so far as I can see, the most likely way and the cheapest to deal with them in our Northern pastoral country will be by the pastoralists carrying out the Rodier system for all it is worth. It has, however, yet to be proved that the country will suit the rabbit, and observations and reports from the settlers in the North throws a certain amount of doubt on the subject. If every settler and pastoralist accepts the fact that he is responsible for keeping his holding free from rabbits and acts up to it, I think Western Australia has but little to fear. I would like to mention that within the past few weeks I went along a portion of the rabbit-proof fence to the North of Burracoppin where there are rabbits at the present time, and I saw a good illustration of the good the rabbit fence is doing. On the outside of the No. 1 fence there was not a blade of grass to be seen; on the inside there was any amount of grass from three to six inches high and any amount of old feed, while on the outside of the fence the old feed had been eaten down close to the ground, and there was not enough to feed even a bandicoot. A better illustration of the value of the fence it would be difficult to find. ALEX CRAWFORD, Acting Chief Inspector of Rabbits.

The Rabbit Proof Fence - from Southern to Indian Ocean (1908) - Total Length 2023 Miles

Section I A. Denham Boalger Western Australia is essentially a country of big things. It is the largest of the six States in the Commonwealth, while its mining, pearling and timber industries establish records with any of them within given periods. If one wishes to point, not to Australia, but to world-breaking records, so beloved of the American statistician, one has only to turn to its goldfields water scheme and rabbit proof fence. The former conveys water a distance of 350 miles, with a total net lift of 1,210 feet through its eight pumping stations; the latter has a total length of 2,023 miles, with one portion showing an unbroken line of fencing of 1,139 miles from ocean to ocean. How little these facts are known, even in Australia itself, may be judged by a remark in an eastern paper to the effect that the longest fence in the world is to be found on a Mexican cattle ranch. This fence, it continues, has a continuous run from east to west of over a hundred miles. In discussing the history and construction of the State's rabbit proof fence, it is not proposed in this article to deal with the question of when, where and how it should have been built. The average person will doubtless unconsciously paraphrase Macbeth, and say "if it was to be done it should have been done quickly," and conclude by stating that the fence should have been commenced at Eucla and carried along the 129 meridian until it effectively separated west from South Australia and the Northern Territory. Against all this the ways and means of contemporary finance and the conflicting forces of the body, politics have to be considered. Politicians of the stamp of Seddon and Kingston, men of strong character and determination backed by long and large majorities, may accomplish much, but the utterances and efforts of a far-seeing economist are often received with the same indifference that greeted the prophecies of the Trojan, Cassandra. Progress of Construction The first 465 miles of the rabbit proof fence was erected by contracts under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture. That is, from Starvation Harbour, on the South Coast to Burracoppin, and thence another 250 miles northwards. This was begun in 1901, but three years later the construction vote was formally handed over to the Public Works Department. An inspection was at once made of the works in progress and also of those supposed to be completed. This verified the statement that rabbits were within the line of No. 1 Fence, and the Minister for Lands instructed that an inner fence (No. 2) should be erected by Departmental day labour as soon as possible. In April 1904 Mr R.J. Anketell was appointed Superintendent, and a separate branch formed under his direction. Eight day labour parties were sent out to erect the 724 miles of No. 2 Fence in sections. The first party commenced at Cunderdin, the last to start being the one on the south Coast section terminating at Point Ann. This fence was finally completed in July, 1905. In the meanwhile the No. 1 Fence was being rapidly extended northward, and two years after the Public Works Department had taken the work over, 1,623 miles had been completed. 312 miles of the northern section were constructed by only one party, owing to the abnormal distances that material and stores had to be transported. The average lead of cartage on this section was 200 miles, the maximum 450 miles.

Buildings and Stores Boundary riders' cottages, and inspectors' houses with stables, stores, etc. were erected along the route. The establishment of a provision store on the northern sections was imperative. Rations, clothing, etc were supplied to the men at Nannine, retail rates, while the Department bore the cost of transport. There were over 100 men employed on these sections throughout and it was necessary that a good supply of provisions should be stocked on the fence in case of heavy rain or other unforeseen circumstances, causing delay in transport. As much as 30 tons of goods were in store on the fence line, at times, and all this had to be lifted from camp to camp. In addition, stocks were held in bulk at the various depots along the transport route. During the first year, when nine day labour parties were engaged, the average number of men employed was about 400. This number was reduced to 200 for the following year, and for the last period of work the average would be about 130. Technical Details The reserve along the fence line is one chain wide or 50 links on each side with clearing and grubbing 20 feet wide. A top barb wire is run along the fence at a height of 3 feet 10 inches from the ground, while the 17guage netting with 1¼ inch mesh has a minimum height of 2 feet 10 inches and a minimum depth in the ground of 6 inches. In loose or sandy country, extra strips of netting were attached to increase depth in ground. All netting was tarred for a height of not less than 12 inches from bottom selvage. Yard traps, with wing fences are erected at intervals of five miles. Cyclone tubular gateways are provided at all road intersections, on an average of one in every eight miles, while flood gates are constructed at crossings on all watercourses. The posts were made principally of jam and mulga, but 300 miles of angle steel standards were erected in lieu of ordinary posts where timber was scarce. The transport weight per mile of netting, plain, barb and binding wire, equalled 2 tons, standards 2 tons; fodder, stores, etc. On September 30th 1907, all fences were erected complete. The last section taken over by -The Department of Agriculture was the north coast one. This was done on 1st December of the same year and that Department now controls and maintains the entire work throughout the State. The length of the various fences is as follows:Fence Miles No. 1 1,139 Total 2,023 As previously stated 465 miles of this work was erected by contract and 1,558 miles by Departmental day labour, under the supervision of the ex-superintendent, Mr R.J. Anketell, now leader of the WA "Trans-Australian Survey Party". The average cost of constructing the 2,023 miles works out at £167.1.0 per mile. The highest average was reached on the 239 miles of the north coast section, at a cost of £253.12.9 per mile and the lowest on the Warra Warra Section, of 123 miles on No. 2 Fence at an average mileage rate of £116.9.9. The total cost of construction, including water supply, amounted to £337,941.1.8. If £14,407.9.0 be added for surveys, inspection of the Kimberley Division, and upkeep of plant during and after completion, the aggregate works out at £352,348.10.8. This does not include the cost of the original surveys made by the Lands Department and the cost of maintenance by the Department of Agriculture, as it successively took the work over from the Public Works Department during the last four years. Allowing an additional £61,182.17.7 for this, a grand total of £413,531.8.3 is obtained up to June 30, the end of the present financial year. No. 2 724 No. 3 160

Present Efficacy of the Barrier In view of the enormous expenditure on the undertaking, it is reassuring to read the following statement in the recent report of the present Chief Inspector for the Agricultural Department. "The fence as it stands today is as rabbit proof as the day it was erected. *On the east side there is scarcely any feed to be seen that the rabbits can get at, while on the west side there was grass and saltbush in abundance. In many places the east of the fence was a desert, and the west a green field." The controversy that raged over the Goldfields Water Scheme was long and bitter. Public opinion has long since recognised the abilities of the engineer which made the enterprise a successful one. His memorial might well be the one ascribed to Christopher Wren, "Si menumentum quaeris circumspice". If this cannot be said of those responsible for the origin and construction of the rabbit proof fence, the work itself, at least stands as a monument of what human ingenuity and perseverance can accomplish in the face of any and great difficulties. *From the Rabbit Proof Fence, Chief Inspector's Report, Journal of Dept of Agriculture 17:515, 1908.

The Rabbit Proof Fence - Water supply reserves and surveys some interesting facts and figures (1908)

Section II A. Denham Boalger The construction of fences, situated for the greater portion of their lengths in apparently waterless country, caused at first a good deal of anxiety regarding the question of water supply. It necessitated the employment of four well-equipped water supply parties, and numerous bores had to be put down to test the country along the entire lines of fencing. Eventually a first class water supply was established throughout at intervals of about 12 to 14 miles. On the Northern and North Coast sections each well was sunk until a supply of at least 2,000 gallons per day was obtained. The cost of water supply covering 2,023 miles of fencing was £22,900 or about £11.6.0 per mile of fence. Wherever water has been provided for maintenance purposes, and where good feed exists, reserves of sufficient area to meet requirements have been secured. A large reserve at Burracoppin, used as a horse or camel paddock, was fenced, and one of about 11,000 acres at Jigalong Creek (625 miles on No. 1 Fence) has also been fenced. The latter is the main central depot on the northern section and has a windmill with tanks, troughing, etc duly erected. It was from this depot that the camels now being used in the Trans-Australian railway survey were brought to Kalgoorlie for the completion of that work. Surveys Owing to the alleged presence of rabbits in the Yalgoo district, it was originally intended that the line of No. 2 Fence should swing more to the westward, crossing the Murchison railway at Pindar. After making a thorough inspection of the locality, however, the superintendent came to the conclusion that this extra distance was unnecessary. A deviation was therefore made from Warra Warra, crossing the railway line near Yalgoo and joining the original survey near Jibberdding. This alteration of route and another smaller deviation in the vicinity of Nannine, shortened the length of fence by 126 miles, afforded a better and cheaper route and saved a sum of over £18,000. On the Northern Section of No. 1 Fence at 525 miles an alteration was made to obtain better country for construction purposes and to shorten the route. This deviation with several minor ones, effected a saving of about £3,000 and cut off 15 miles of exceptionally heavy construction. Concrete Walls At the North Coast terminus, the original line, as surveyed, ran out into the sea on the Ninety Mile Beach at Wallal. This being absolutely impossible as a proper terminus for a rabbit barrier, the line was turned to Bannangarra where the fence terminates on a cliff, with a concrete wall running from it into the sea. In obtaining this suitable termination of the fence, the length of line was increased by 24 miles, adding nearly £5,000 to the cost of construction. The total actual saving effected by making these deviations (after duly deducting cost of original surveys) amounts to £15,000 besides giving better fencing. At the southern end of No. 1 Fence which terminates at Starvation Harbour on the south coast, a concrete wall has also been constructed. Owing to the rise and fall of tide, these walls were necessary to ensure reliable rabbit barriers. The fact of the rise and fall of the tide being about 30 feet at Banningarra made the Northern wall difficult to construct, as it necessitated the work being carried out in small sections.

Taking a monthly average of construction at 26 miles, it meant that fully 90 tons of material etc, had to be transported a distance of 290 miles every month. To accomplish this, 350 camels, 210 horses, and 41 donkeys were employed. Nannine was the base of supply, and the cost of cartage was 1/6d per ton per mile. The North Coast Section running from 700 mile to 939 mile was supplied with material from Condon. The fence on this section traversed numerous sandhills, extending for over 100 miles, and this, together with lack of suitable timber, necessitated the adoption of angle steel standards in lieu of ordinary timber posts. The transport being exceedingly difficult on account of the sandy nature of the country cost 2/- per ton per mile, and the fact that steel standards were used (weighing two tons per mile) increased the weight of material "per fence mile" to 5½ tons. This meant that for 239 miles of fence, 1,315 tons of materials, stores, etc, had to be transported over an average lead of 160 miles. This section was finished on September 30th 1907, thus making No. 1 Fence a complete rabbit barrier from Starvation Harbour on the Southern Ocean, to Banningarra on the Indian Ocean - a total length of 1,139 miles. During the construction of the north coast section, a cross fence of light design called the No. 3 Fence was commenced and finished. This fence starting at Warra Warra on No. 2 Fence, runs in an almost due westerly direction to Bluff Point, situated about 70 miles north of Geraldton. One small party was engaged on this fence throughout and completed the whole of it - 160 miles - in 10 months. The No. 3 Fence differs from fences Nos. 1 and 2 in that, while the main fences are constructed with posts 12 feet apart and with three plain wires, the design of No. 3 fence is posts 18 feet apart and only two plain wires; the yard traps are also of smaller dimensions. In other respects, however, it corresponds with the specifications for the main fences and though undoubtedly suitable for a sub-division fence (which it is), would not be satisfactory as a main barrier. Here again transport was very heavy, the average lead being 60 miles. The fence crossed about 100 miles of sand plain, practically waterless, and this caused considerable trouble in construction and distribution of material, say 1½ tons. Taking the 2,023 miles of fence at 3½ tons of cartage per fence mile, and adding 600 tons of standards, the total weight of material, etc, transported amounts to nearly 8,000 tons. Much of the credit of the successful construction of the work is undoubtedly due to the foresight, organising ability and energy of the late Superintendent Mr R. J. Anketell. As an instance of these qualities, it may be mentioned that when inspecting the practically unknown country between the Oakover River and Derby, via Johanna Spring and Rescue Well, the small party he selected proved particularly efficient, and never met with the slightest mishap. This trip was made in connection with the proposed wing fence to safeguard the enormous area of pastoral country in the Kimberley district from invasion by rabbits. Though the party was well equipped with camels, the leaders in order to make the most accurate observations, walked the whole distance, 705 miles, in nine weeks. The construction of the three fences being an undertaking of such magnitude and scattered over such a large area, necessitated a very strict supervision over the work, with the result that Mr Anketell was away from Head Office for two-thirds of the time. During his absence the whole of the internal management was carried out by Mr Haxton Grant. Before taking control of the TransAustralian Railway survey, the ex-superintendent paid a special tribute to the able manner in which the work of head office had been conducted.

Researched by the Librarian, 2 June 1966. Quoted above "Mr R. J. Anketell, now leader of WA Trans-Australian Survey party", was with the Trans-Australian Survey party in 1908. An extract from the Annual Report of the Public Works Department 1907/8 page 11: "Fences Nos. 1, 2, and 3 have now been completed, water provided for maintenance purposes and areas of land reserved at suitable localities for the depasturing of maintenance animals. The total length of fence is 2023 miles and the total cost has been £337,941. The work has been carried out in a very able manner by the Superintendent, Mr Anketell, and his staff."

Bicentennial rock hole - 1988

Ron Diver A rock hole on the No. 1 Rabbit Proof Fence, at the 69 mile, situated about 108 km north of Burracoppin, was the subject of a unique Bicentennial project by APB staff in 1988. Situated on a section of fence still maintained by the APB as part of the barrier fence system (between the Yilgarn and Lake Moore fences), the rock hole was one of the watering points used by the construction teams when building the fence early this century, and later by inspectors as they patrolled the fence on camels. With the advent of motorised transport, the rockhole fell into disrepair, and few people (other than APB fence staff) knew of its existence. It was decided that it would be appropriate to restore the rockhole as a part of the Bicentennial celebrations, and this took place in the middle of March, with an enthusiastic band of workers present. The first thing that had to be done was to remove the dead kangaroos, emus and other wildlife, and pump out the water. Then came the laborious task of cleaning out all the sediment, bones, rocks, old timber and general muck with buckets. Accompanied by much puffing, panting, grunting and groaning, the job was eventually finished. Next, the old rabbit-proof netting fence surrounding the rock hole was dismantled, and a new ringlock fence erected. New netting was placed on the roof of the hole, and a new escape hatch fitted. Then a large granite rock was pulled into the yard, and a plaque to commemorate the event was bolted to it. Of course, this wasn't done in five minutes. Those in attendance camped at the junction of the No. 1 north and Yilgarn fences while the work was in progress. There was plenty of entertainment, food, and water to drink (just who are they trying to kid? Ed.). John McSwain, with the assistance of a huge amount of fly repellent, won the rifle shooting after a shoot-off with Ron Nannup. Murray Bright won the golf (even though Horrie Curley got a hole-inone in the grid), and Tom Bailey won the coveted prize as the best there. Ron Nannup, known as the "Fat Slim Dusky", kept everyone awake with his guitar and songs (Comment from one -"What a noise!"), and Kevin "Bloody" Williams was voted the best trainee present. All agreed that it was an excellent job, well organised and supervised by none other than Jim Reynolds (who wrote all this rubbish? Ed). The result should (and will) go down in history.

Time capsule buried at Yalgoo - 1990

The sun was shining brilliantly -- a beautiful Yalgoo day for a special occasion. On the 26 September, 1990, Jim Reynolds and his APB fence staff hosted a field day to inform pastoralists and the public about the latest developments on the State Barrier Fence, and more importantly, to place a time capsule. Jim Reynolds, APB Regional Officer for the Barrier Fence, commenced proceedings and welcomed some 110 people, some who had travelled long distances, from Kalgoorlie, Carnarvon and south of Perth. He gave a brief presentation on the history of the Yalgoo shire and its connections with the fence. Rodney Johns, APB District Officer at Mount Magnet, addressed the group on his work in the area, and explained how the APB system of working with station owners operated. Ross Dennis, of Boral Cyclone, discussed the background of his company's involvement with the fence, and gave a running commentary as Joe McGree demonstrated how to erect a four strand Ringlock fence in a few minutes. This fence was then cut and repaired, demonstrating the simplicity of the operation. CALM officer Kevin Marshall addressed the group on emus in the area. He said that emus are now protected throughout the State, but with permission (license) from CALM they can be destroyed if they are causing unacceptable losses to the landholder. This was followed by a question and answer session. The lengthy discussion on emus, the number of questions asked and the concern shown on the matter highlighted that emus are a very definite problem in the area. Russell Heath, President of the Murchison Regional Vermin Council (MRVC), explained the structure and purpose of the council. To be a member, one currently needs to be a shire councillor, although this is presently being reviewed. He also explained how the MRVC works on a limited budget. Other speakers included Doug Brenkley, past president of Mullewa Shire, and Ray O'Donnell, current RAC member from Binnu, who both spoke on the realignment of the fence to enclose all possible future agricultural land after the 1976 emu invasion. Jim Reynolds then displayed the new Barrier Fence sign for erecting near roads crossing the fence reserve. The signs are designed to help tourists and others to know what the fence is all about, and hopefully reduce the incidence of vandalism along the fence. Jim then explained the background of placing the `APB's Time Capsule' and believed this is the first time anyone in the APB had placed a time capsule. He stated that Yalgoo was the oldest remaining rabbit depot (opened in 1911), and had been selected as the site for the event. The Capsule will remain in the marked area of the Yalgoo APB Depot for a period of fourty eight years (fifty years after the bi-centenary of Australia), before being opened for inspection in September of the year 2038. For historical purposes, the location of where the time capsule has been buried (including the street and lot number), has been registered with the Shire of Yalgoo. The time capsule contains many items that will be of interest to those who open it in the future. Items included; papers sent from local shires, a set of current coins, maps, APB staff structure, current and past editions of APB NEWS and FEEDBACK, as well as personal profiles and photographs of some of the participants on the day.

Jim Reynolds thanked several people who helped make the day possible, including:

· · · · · · · · · · · · ·

Geoff Elliott (who bored the hole), Ray Blick (supplied PVC pipe for the capsule), Bunnings (supplied caps for the capsule), Greg Wallace of the Geraldton Museum (supplied paper, dusting powder and information on how to process paper for the capsule), Horrie Curley (set the plaque in concrete), Ian Hudson and Robyn Knox (coins), Sunshine, Crooks & Brook of Geraldton (donation of spade to open the hole in 2038), Carl Johansen, ($1 note), Greg Jeffries (inscription of spade), Phil Bland, Yalgoo Rifle Club (supply of tables & chairs), Syd Harvey and Rod Johns (organisation of the day), Suzanne Matchett (recorder for the day); and Syd Harvey, APB staff member who sealed the time capsule into place.

Syd Harvey thanked everyone at the gathering for sharing the occasion and asked everyone to remember those who had first built the fence. Syd also acknowledged local authorities and farmers' involvement with the fence, as well as the media. On closing the day, Eric Chartlon, MLC gave recognition to Jim Reynolds and others on their contribution towards the fence and the placing of the time capsule.

Specifications - the changes of time

Jim Reynolds and Ron Diver, 1992 The Barrier Fence of today is constructed to vastly different specifications than the original "Rabbit Proof Fence". The Original The original fence specifications were: 1. Line posts to be 12 feet (3.6m) apart 2. Line posts to be bush timber (where available) and have a crown of not less than 4 inches (100mm) 3. Where bush posts were not available, flat steel posts, with a 90 degree twist at ground level, were imported from Spain 4. Strainer posts to have a crown of not less than 6 inches (150mm) and be spaced 100 yards (92.5 m) apart 5. Netting to be not more than one inch (25 mm) mesh, three feet six (1.1m) high and buried one foot (300 mm) in the ground on the outside (north/east) of the posts 6. The only support wire required was a single plain wire along the top of the netting. (There was no barbed wire at all on the original fence.) (It is interesting to note that the star steel posts were first developed by the army about 1912 so they could make horse yards quickly and easily, and just as quickly and easily shift them.) These specifications were maintained throughout the wars and the depression. Then, when the fence was being refurbished in the early 1950s, things began to change. The first change The first modification to be made (and remember that rabbits were by now in plague proportions west of the fence) was to add a plain wire and two barbed wires above the netting. The reason for this was to change the rabbit proof fence into a vermin fence, with the aim of stopping emus, wild dogs, donkeys, camels, (and in later years goats) from invading the agricultural areas. The Lake Moore Fence Then when the Lake Moore fence was built (1957-59) they tried leaving the netting at ground level instead of burying it. But they made the mistake of placing the lowest plain support wire a foot (300mm) above ground level. This allowed wild dogs, foxes and kangaroos to scratch and dig under the fence, lift the netting as they squeezed through, and leaving a big hole for other animals to use. Another problem was that the posts were not put far enough in the ground. Of course this meant that the fence was easily pushed over by large numbers of animals or by animals under pressure from shooters or vehicles. Following a large fire, much of the Lake Moore fence had to be re-built, and the opportunity was taken to refurbish it and make it more animal proof. The wire was still lapped 2 inches (50 mm) on the ground instead of being buried, but we put the bottom plain wire at ground level to stop animals digging under it. The posts were placed 15 foot (4.5 m) apart, buried deeper, and the netting plus two barbs on top gave us a 49 inch (1.25 m) fence.

Three droppers between each post attached the barbed wires on the top to the netting and top support wire. There is now only about two kilometres to go to complete the refurbishing of the Lake Moore Fence. The Yilgarn Fence When the Yilgarn Fence was built (1964-65) the move was made to make it more dingo-proof. This meant burying the netting 6 inches (150 mm) in the ground, and to get the required height they had to revert to using barb-plain-barb on the top of the fence with three support wires and three droppers between each post. Strainer posts remained at 100 yards (92.5 m) apart and line posts 15 feet (4.5 m) apart. Since the wild dog problem was largely overcome later, the parts of the fence that have been refurbished have also been changed. The 2 inch lap at the bottom was re-introduced, and more recently we have erected a 10 kilometre section using ringlock. Four-foot netting The next major shift in specifications began in 1968, when a trial was carried out on the No. 3 fence on Tardi Station using normal bush posts but including 4 foot (1.2 m) netting. This was successful until the wire manufactures refused to make the 4' netting any more, as they would have to change their looms to do so. So it was back to the 3'6" netting. Wooden V Steel Posts Then a problem with the supply of wooden post occurred. The board had contract cutters at Southern Cross cutting mulga posts and at Yalgoo cutting native pine posts. These were stacked in the bush and later transported to where they were required. However suitable timber became harder to find, and eventually the Forest Department, which issued permits to the post cutters, decided that they would not issue any permits for Government agencies. This was to preserve the remaining supplies of posts for pastoralists and farmers, and also because in those days there was a big push from government to utilise the thinnings from the pine plantations. Another aspect of this was the suitability of the timber itself. Because good post timber was getting scarce, timber cutters were cutting posts from the younger branches of trees. These were very sappy and rotted quickly in the ground and were prone to white ant attack. So we suggested that we use star posts. This was rejected because of the push to use pine plantation thinnings. Our argument was that the star steels were readily available, easy to cart, they were not prone to fire damage (a lot of posts are burnt in bush fires ever year), and they were only marginally dearer than the pine posts. To further enhance our argument the Lake Moore fence, in which pine posts were used exclusively, was falling down because the pine posts were rotting off after only about 10 years. The Forest Department told us that this was because the pine posts were young trees (virtually only sap wood) cut and used immediately instead of being stacked and cured for at least two years, as is recommended. This, of course, was too expensive for them to do. So we compromised and purchased star steel posts for most of the fence, and used pine posts for lake crossings. Dropper change Another change around this time was the change in the type of dropper used. This all began with Australia's change over to metric units in 1966. When the new metricated netting was introduced, it was found that the old coiled-wire type droppers would not fit into the netting.

When ACTIV industries (who manufactured the coiled-wire droppers) were approached about the problem, they advised that they could not afford to change their machines to manufacture droppers to the new dimensions, and so they had to drop out of the industry. So we changed to the angled sheet-metal type droppers we use today. These clip readily onto the fence, and are quite satisfactorily. We did have a problem with them for a start because we didn't realise that emus and kangaroos would knock them off so readily. As these animals travel down the fence they often catch the droppers and spring them off, making the virtually useless. Since we began putting them on the inside of the barb instead of the outside, however, we haven't had anywhere near as many problems. Rotting Posts Rotting posts are always a problem when you have 1200 kilometres of fence to look after. Originally, when posts rotted off they were removed and replaced. This meant that the plain support wires had to be cut, as they were always threaded through the holes in the posts. This in turn meant that the only netting and barb could be reclaimed from the old fence. These days we don't remove the old posts. We use what we call support posts, a star steel between the rotting wooden posts. This is not the ideal way of doing it, but saves thousands of dollars in maintenance costs. Electric Fences Electric fences, in our experience, have been a disaster. One trial a few years back put an electric fence across a corner to see if it would stop emus congregating in the corner. They used steel standards and 6-line ringlock with two "hot wire on insulators. It failed, mainly because it didn't provide any sort of visible barrier to what the emus were used to. We thought it should have been tried in an existing fence, where the emus are moving alongside it rather than at it. Strainers As stated previously, the original strainer posts had to be 6 inches at the crown. This did not change for many years, because there was no need to change. Then when we started using treated pines we found that they rotted off and had to be replaced from as little as four years after being put in the ground. So we have now moved to galvanised angle iron strainer assemblies. The angle iron is 4" by 4", giving us a strainer assembly that will out last wooden strainers by many years. Ringlock The use of ringlock in the fence started about 1978, when Boral Cyclone put in a 750 metre trial section in the No. 3 fence. Strainer posts in this were 200 metres apart, and line posts 7 metres apart. There was a barb 50mm from ground level, and the bottom of the 10 line ringlock was 50mm above that. There was a single barb 100mm above the ringlock, and this was attached to the ringlock three times between each line post using coupling clips. The bottom barb was not attached to the fence between line posts. This failed for two reasons; the animals could force their way between the bottom barb and the ringlock, and the posts had not been put far enough in the ground and the animals were pushing it over.

So the next year we got permission to conduct another trial. This time it was to be built to our specifications. We put in eight kilometres of ringlock in the No. 2 fence, which runs north-south. The strainer posts were the same distance apart as in the previous trial, and the bottom barb remained 50mm above ground level. However we lowered the ringlock so that it matched the bottom barb, and clipped it to the barb. This proved to be very successful. So much so, in fact, that we decided this was the way to go. So the next phase started ­ with a 13 kilometre fence to the same specifications installed on the west side of Lake Moore. The fence here runs east-west. (It should be remembered that there is more pressure on an east-west fence than there is on a north-south fence, as emus migrate in a south-south-westerly direction.) This again proved to be highly successful, despite being under terrific pressure. We have had no damage to ringlock fences since they were installed using this system, and consequently we've also had no maintenance problems. All new fences installed, and most creek crossings repaired, are now ringlock. The Future I believe we can change the fence specifications again without losing effectiveness but saving a considerable amount of money. I believe that the current ringlock and barb specifications are the best we can achieve, and should remain as they are. However I suggest that the strainers be used only on rises or valleys or where the fence changes direction, or no less than 500 metres apart. Line posts could possibly be placed 10 metres apart, giving a total of 100 posts per kilometre instead of 157. These changes would save even more money than we have so far by changing to ringlock ­ and remember, three years ago it cost us $150,000 to maintain the fence, while today it's costing only $100,000. That's the sort of cost saving we are talking about.

Mixtures of miles and metres

Jim Reynolds & Ron Diver, 1992 Many people were inconvenienced to some extent when Australia changed to metric measurements in the latter part of the 1960s. We were no less affected than others. The initial problem was that although Australia had gone metric, the fence was still measured and marked in miles. Consequently we advertised our contracts for renewing sections of fence in miles. But contractors submitting tenders for these jobs often mistook the "miles" written in the tender documents as kilometres, and worked out their prices accordingly. This meant that their tender price was far too low. This problem was exacerbated when we put in the (then) new Murchison and Lake Moore fences. These were measured and marked in kilometres, so we then had a fence system with both imperial and metric measurements in it. It was only after many arguments and headaches, we finally received approval to change the whole fence across to metrics. Before we could start, however, we needed to have markers to indicate the fence distance (remembering that we needed about 1200 of them). I got quotes for the numbers, but before they would let me order them we had to salvage all the numbers off the maintained sections of the Lake Moore, Number 2, Number 3, and the Ajana Spur fences. Unfortunately there were not enough numbers ­ none of the remaining sections of fence was over 200 kilometres. In addition we often lost these numbers to souvenir hunters, which reduced the available numbers still further. So the new numbers were ordered. The numbers were stamped into the metal, not cut out as the originals were. The numbers are not painted and are deliberately made hard to see, as it has been found that a bright object is often the target for vandals, irresponsible shooters and souvenir hunters. MEASURING THE MILES The old fence had been measured in sections, beginning with the Number 1 south, followed by the Yilgarn, the Number 1 north, the Lake Moore, the Number 2, the Number 3 and finally the Murchison fence. We decided that if the northern section of the maintained fence (excluding the Number 1 south, which is a separate entity) was maintained as one fence, it should be measured and marked that way. So we obtained a computerised counter and attached it to the vehicle. This was then calibrated by Brad Rayner of the Department of Agriculture, and we started our task at the north coast end of the fence. The computer system was very accurate except where the vehicle had to deviate around rocks etc. In those areas we had to get out and measure the section with a 100 metre tape, and pick the measuring up again on the other side when the vehicle could again travel in a straight line.

By the time we had completed the first section, to the junction of the new Murchison and the Number 3 Fences, we knew the computer was accurate. This section had been surveyed when it was built (in the 1980-81 period), so we knew the exact distance it should have been ­ and it was. But by the time we got to the end of the number 2 something was wrong. We knew approximately what the distance should have been, but we were miles out (or kilometres out if you like, but it doesn't sound the same). After much searching, swearing and checking it was found that a wire had come loose in the computer, meaning that it was not registering correctly. Having got the computer fixed, we commenced again. We were lucky I suppose, but from there on in we didn't have any problems at all with the machine or the marking. One head office bloke (now retired) queried the accuracy of our equipment, but when we pointed out that the survey of the top end of the fence agreed with our measurements and that the surveyed length of the 262 kilometre Yilgarn fence was only 200 metres different from our measurement, he (reluctantly) conceded that it was satisfactory.

Grid deleted

Jim Reynolds and Ron Diver, 1992 One of the problems with a fence of this length is that it crosses many roads, several of them main highways. Obviously we have gone years past where we could expect people to stop, and open shut gates as they travelled, so many years ago grids were installed. For those who don't know, a grid is a series of steel bars (such as railway line) over a pit dug across the road. The bars are at right angle to the road and, when correctly installed, allow vehicles to pass over without any damage to either the vehicle or the grid. But of course even solid grids such as we've installed on the fence wear out in time, particularly if they are subject to a lot of heavy traffic. The grid where the fence crosses the Great Eastern Highway at Koorarawalyee (east of Southern Cross) was one of these worn out museum pieces. In 1988, when this was being discussed, the MRD had traffic counts of 1100 vehicles per day (many of them semi-trailers or road trains on the east-west trip) going over the grid ­ a heavy traffic load in anyone's language. The Main Roads Department wanted to do away with the grid altogether as it was costing them a small fortune to maintain it, and it would cost a heap to replace the old one. So after lengthy discussions we agreed to dispense with the grid on that section of the fence. This was done by the MRD financing the erection of two wing fences to guide the emus in a south easterly direction so they would not come through the gap. A sketch of the agreed realignment is shown below. The benefit of this was it cost the APB absolutely nothing to install the new sections of the fence, and the MRD saved over $20,000 by not having to install and maintain a grid ­ good for everyone concerned!

Post maintenance - Capping posts

Jim Reynolds and Ron Diver, 1992 One of the questions we are regularly asked is why do we put steel caps on some posts when the old posts have survived for years without them. All posts in the old days were cut by axe (a laborious job, but that's another story). The stipulation for the posts was that they had to have a pencil point top. This was to help water run off when it rained. That this was successful can be seen by the length of time these posts have remained useful ­ some since 1902! In later years, when we started using treated pine posts, these were all cut with a circular saw, leaving a flat top. This allowed the rain to penetrate the top of the post very easily and as a result the posts rotted out much more quickly than the old style posts. This in turn either increases the rate of rusting of the top wire or allows it to be pulled straight out of the top of the post. Another problem we encountered was that the flat-topped posts caught fire much more easily when there were bush fires around. So we had to try to overcome these problems, and the obvious answer was to put caps on the posts similar to those used in the old days for white ant prevention on the stumps of houses. This was tried and (was) very successful. So successful, in fact, that it is still in use today.

Plant maintenance - perverse pines

Jim Reynolds & Ron Diver, 1992 One of the problems with maintaining a fence 1200 kilometres long is that tree and bush regrowth must constantly be removed, otherwise it provides an ignition point in the case of fire, as well as making normal access and maintenance difficult. Traditionally this work has been done with a grader or plow for that regrowth growing far enough away from the fence for these machines to get at. The plants growing close to or entangled in the fence must, however, be cleared by physical exertion and an axe. In latter years we have tried to overcome this time-consuming and exhausting task by using herbicides to kill the bushes while they are young. In general this has been fairly successful ­ but not in all cases. John Peirce of the Department of Agriculture carried out trials using eight different herbicides in the mid 1980s. He concentrated his efforts on the south of the Yilgarn fence, while I tried the herbicides at other locations in different ground conditions along other stretches of the fence. In the main these herbicides worked well on everything except native pine trees. We found that we got about a 70% kill on everything ­ except the pines. John continued his work until 1991, however these trials have, to date, failed to find a herbicide effective against pines. We are still confident, however, that somewhere down the track there will be a suitable chemical waiting in the wings. But when you look at it, the 23 kilometres of heavy pine regrowth that occurs on the southern end of the Yilgarn fence is a very small percentage of the total of 1200 kilometres!

Fence Committee' Formed

Ron Diver, 1992 Ajana farmer Ray O'Donnell was elected Chairman of the newly-formed `Northern Barrier Fence Committee' at a meeting of interested pastoralists and farmers at Yalgoo in March. The committee was formed with the aim of assisting with the management of the Fence after the retirement of long-serving APB Regional Officer Jim Reynolds in July this year. It is planned that following Mr Reynolds' retirement, the management of the Fence will be divided between the APB Regional Officers stationed at Geraldton and Merredin. While each will have actual control of two fence staff, the overall management of the Fence would be a joint effort, with regular meetings being held to manage finances and to coordinate Fence maintenance, repair and replacement. Should there be any disagreement on priorities for the Fence, the matter would be decided by their supervising APB Adviser. The Fence will be divided into two sections meeting at Lake Moore, which is impassable to vehicular traffic. This is a logical division as it is about the centre point of the Fence, which runs in an arc from north of Kalbarri to east of Ravensthorpe. The 19 people attending the meeting agreed that a committee of interested and affected landholders was critical to the efficient maintenance of the Fence. They said that the amount of money spent on the Fence to keep it in its present state (about $100,000 per year) needed to be maintained or increased, or the fence would soon fall into disrepair. They agreed that the Fence crossed all boundaries from shire to RACs and ZCAs, and for that reason it didn't fit neatly into any previously delineated area. Because of this, they did not believe that the RAC/ZCA system, which worked on shire boundaries, was appropriate to the needs of Fence management. The consensus was that committee members would be able to contribute to the running of the Fence by acting as an advisory body to those responsible for its maintenance. They could also report Fence damage or fire-prone regrowth to APB staff immediately it was noticed, and offer suggestions on Fence maintenance and techniques. Those elected to the Northern Barrier Fence Committee were: Ray O'Donnell of Ajana [Chairman], Mike Foulkes-Taylor and Russell Heath of Yalgoo, Bob Cornell and Frank Sutherland of Binnu, Tony Maslen of Moon-yoonooka and Ken Thompson of Mullewa (subject to his approval). The APB's Regional Officer at Geraldton, Peter Scott, will be the Executive Officer of the committee. It is proposed that the committee would hold its first meeting about October or November, after the new supervisors had settled into the job of managing the Fence. Those present at the meeting agreed that it was inappropriate for them to tell the people from the southern areas what to do, as they were not represented at the meeting. However they did recommend that a committee be formed there to assist with the management of the southern section of the Fence in a similar manner to that proposed for the northern section.


State Barrier Fence - history and introduction

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