We fired up in earnest on fencing season a couple of weeks ago here at Naree – autumn and spring are the most suitable times to do the work in this extreme climate. But autumn is taking its time in coming, with summer still dragging on and on, fighting to maintain its iron grip on this part of the world.
We eye the thermometer each day, knowing that the contractors and friends who are helping with our latest projects are all hoping, like us, that the temperature will stay below 40C for the benefit of both ourselves and our equipment. We weren’t so lucky this week, with some scorching days, but at the moment a slightly cooler change is passing through. We’d like to invite it to stay for a while but are not holding out the highest of hopes that it will!
We’re working to a detailed and prioritised program here at Naree, which we’ve set down in a five-year fencing plan. For the last two years we've been focused on the boundary to make Naree domestic stock-proof, which is good for the recovery of Naree’s groundcover, and good for our neighbours as their cattle and sheep mostly can’t stray so far from home anymore.
The new boundary fences are designed to allow the free movement of native animals such as kangaroos and emus, which is an important thing to think about in a broader regional context in this largely intact landscape. It’s also an important need expressed to us by the Traditional Owners of Naree, the Budjiti people, as they walk the old fence lines checking for anything of significance before we disturb the landscape with our work.
We have around 65km of boundary fences, which when we arrived two years ago were in many states, ranging from non-existent to “not-too-bad with a bit of rehab”. Many of them were inaccessible by car, so inspection was done by motorbike, or on foot in the densest thickets and swamps.
We’re making great progress, but there's still plenty more to do before the task is complete. We have to wait for the right conditions (not too hot, not too wet, not too busy with other pressing tasks) and the availability of both skilled people and the right heavy machinery, neither of which are easy to come by quickly in this remote and isolated patch of New South Wales.
In some places there are up to three old fences running closely in parallel as each generation of land managers has fixed up the fence that went before, so the work has involved a great deal of cleaning up over a century’s worth of tangled wires, and the pulling out of many, many old fence posts.
If those fence posts could only talk. As we work, we imagine the people who were here cutting and drilling the posts from local timber with hand tools all those years ago. Even to get out to many of the spots would have been a long journey on a horse, with the challenge of bringing enough water with you to get your day’s work done.
As we move into year three at Naree, we’re excited to be starting now on the second phase of our program - the creation of a feral animal exclusion zone around the delicate ephemeral wetland complexes and their woodland buffers, which occupy the core of the property.
This work will continue for the next couple of years. Feral animal exclusion fencing is very expensive, at over $7,000 a kilometre, and its installation is also very labour intensive, as the netting used needs to be secured to the wires and posts in many places to make it strong and durable.
Our contractors are putting in the framework of corner posts and strainers, but fellow BHA staff and volunteers are helping with some of the tying on work in an effort to keep the costs down as much as possible.
There are many added bonuses coming out of our fencing work. Not only are we improving our ability to manage domestic and feral animals across the property, we now have much-improved access for effective wild fire management.
But the biggest bonus of all is that making good fences here at Naree means that we get to work closely with our neighbours and other landholders from our region, and can put some of the generous donations that have been made by so many people to Bush Heritage Australia directly into the local economy.
We've had many opportunities to talk about our plans for Naree as we work on the fence lines together, and are privileged to feel accepted in our new community here. Long-term friendships are growing and strengthening.
Thank you to everyone who is contributing to Naree’s fencing program – we couldn’t do it without you!
We’d like to acknowledge:
- The Traditional Owners, for checking the old fence lines for cultural heritage values
- Our neighbours with their heavy machinery for dozing and grading, and support with so many other fencing tasks
- Our fencing contractors for their labour-saving machinery and skills
- Our fencing suppliers for procuring and carting our materials along the long dirt road from Bourke
- Our family, friends, workmates and other volunteers who have worked tirelessly in often challenging conditions
- The generous donations from many people to Bush Heritage Australia, which makes this work possible.