Famous Fences of the World
AUSTRALIA’S DINGO FENCE
This blog goes out in part to our friends in the fence building community as, in one respect, it must the mother of all installation and maintenance contracts. But in part it also addresses important issues of sustainability and bio-diversity – a cautionary tale of what can happen when you fence things out as well as fence things in.
6 MILLION PLUS DURAPOST®
Built in the 1880s from half-way up the east coast of Australia to the coast of the great Australian Bight in the south, a tranche of land that is probably 20% of the continental land mass, the fence runs for 3,488 miles. If you want to visualise it that’s around 3 o’clock on the clock face to around 6 o’clock along a higgledy-piggledy line.
To put that into practical DuraPost® fencing terms based on a 6-foot fencing panel section we reckon that would mean 6,138,880 posts and one less fence panel. That’s a big order and would be like building a fence from John O’Groats to Lands’ End 6 times over. In terms of construction the Dingo Fence is made of 6-feet high wire mesh strung between posts around 12-feet apart.
THE GREAT AUSTRALIAN SOS – SAVE OUR SHEEP
The fence was conceived as a ‘pest exclusion’ measure – anybody whose neighbour has a cat or feeds foxes will know a thing or two about that and be advised to install a DuraPost® fence around the perimeter of their garden. In this case it was to stop predation on sheep by the dingo – Australia’s wild dog. Technically it’s not native to Australia but was introduced as much as 4,000 years ago by Asian traders to the north.
NO SITTING ON THE FENCE ABOUT THE COST BENEFIT
References can’t seem to agree on what it cost to build the original dingo fence, nor what it costs to maintain annually – but estimates for maintenance seem to be around AUS$10 million per year. In contrast Australian pastoralists reckon that the fence saves them AUS$48 million. Certainly, before the fence was built some large sheep stations estimated they were losing as many as 10,000 sheep a year to the dingo. Cattle were also affected.
Overall, it certainly seems to work. The fence is cleared to 5m either side allowing for the vehicles of the maintenance crews to travel along it. The main problems occur when camels break through. Unlike your average UK suburb, there are enormous herds of dromedaries in Australia which were originally introduced not from the Sahara but from the Canary Islands. (Not many people know that!) There are well over one million of them with the population estimated to double every nine years.
THERE ARE TWO SIDES TO EVERY FENCE
Every fence has an environmental impact. Although mostly this story is about the danger of importing invasive species and even the finest Birkdale fence, designed with the environment and sustainability in mind, can’t keep out Japanese Knotweed.
While the dingo fence has done a good job keeping sheep safe, it has also meant that competitors for grazing like rabbits, kangaroos and emus are safe from dingo predation. As such the shape of vegetation is changing and sheep are still suffering.
A FINAL THOUGHT FOR HEDGEHOGS
We don’t really have such extensive problems in the UK, apart from perhaps deer, which a Birkdale fence should keep off your brassicas. But at Birkdale we go to great lengths to try not to change biodiversity, and, in the case of the garden hedgehog, which is very much the gardeners’ friend, we have introduced special hedgehog gates into our fences to help maintain ‘hedgehog highways’. You might get the occasional cat slipping through one messing your garden, but you’ll keep the slugs under control.