By Ebonnie Spriggs, Lucie Bell
A pastoral station in Western Australia's Pilbara region plans to lock its gates to the public from the start of next month and employ guards following poaching and arson attacks.
Michael Thompson from Mundabullagana (Munda) Station, south-west of Port Hedland, said he was fed up with trespassers cutting his fences, lighting fires and shooting his stock and native animals.
For the past eight years, Mr Thompson has also leased part of neighbouring pastoral station Boodarie, which is owned by miner BHP Billiton, to graze his cattle.
He said trespassers on both stations, particularly at night, were causing him stress both financially and emotionally.
"I think it's as bad as it's ever been," he said.
"At the moment we've got three different shooters, shooting at night on Boodarie and Munda.
"I lost somewhere around 100 weaners [young cattle\ last year. At $700 or $800 each, it is a lot of money.
"I've tried my best to give the public a fair run but to lose close to $100,000 worth of stock from Boodarie alone... enough is enough."
In the past 12 months, Mr Thompson said his crew had fought five deliberately-lit fires on the stations, which led to a significant loss of pasture and feed for his stock.
After lighting the fires, poachers would then return to the burnt-out scrub to shoot native bush turkeys, which have become increasingly rare.
"Regardless of colour or creed, you need to seek permission from the station owner to use firearms," Mr Thompson said.
Syringes, bottles, nappies discardedThe leasing arrangement struck between BHP Billiton and Mr Thompson over parts of Boodarie Station allows for public access to a popular fishing spot near Port Hedland.
"We honoured that, we put arrows in the direction of the fishing and other arrows saying 'don't enter' because these are pastoral activity areas," Mr Thompson said.
"It hasn't worked. People think they can drive all over the stations.
"You go out there and see beer bottles, cans, syringes, dirty nappies, you name it.
"You think, well, that's the respect you get for trying to do the right thing by the public.
"It's always the minority that wreck it for everyone else."
Mr Thompson said a meeting had been organised this week with the miner to discuss limiting access to Boodarie, starting next month.
"I've asked BHP to have a meeting to discuss people travelling around on Boodarie at night," he said.
"I'm happy to leave one entry and exit point open for fishermen during the day, but as far as I'm concerned anyone there at night is there illegally.
"And anyone I catch on Munda [day or night\ will be a trespasser and will be dealt with by the police accordingly ... because all the boundary gates will be locked."
In the past, locked gates had been cut or run-down by trespassers, as had boundary fences on both stations, Mr Thompson said, adding he was concerned his cattle would stray onto the nearby North-West Coastal Highway.
"A cow is worth $1,000 to me, so why would I want to let the fence go down?" he asked.
Pilbara police support pastoralistLocal police said they would be supporting Mr Thompson's decision to ban the public from entering Mundabullagana Station.
Acting Sergeant Lauren Tamblyn said the unlawful use of firearms on the private property was a major concern.
"If they are going to be using their firearms unlawfully and discharging unlawfully on someone else's property, it's very serious," she said.
"No person can know at any time exactly where the station hands are, or the managers of that station.
"It's worrying that they could be checking fences or wells or doing something and there are possibly people shooting in the vicinity."
Under the firearms act, major penalties could apply to anyone caught doing the wrong thing, Acting Sergeant Tamblyn said.
"For example, carrying a loaded firearm whilst affected by alcohol has an imprisonment term of two years and a $8,000 fine," she said.
"There have been numerous alcohol cans sighted around near where the [shot\ carcasses have been found, so that's quite alarming that they are possibly drinking alcohol while making their kill."
Acting Sergeant Tamblyn said roaming stray cattle could put drivers' lives at risk.
"A cow can weigh anywhere between 400 to 800 kilograms," she said.
"So hitting a beast of that size, at speed, especially in the dark, could have catastrophic results for the members of the car."
Police are encouraging members of the public to respect the rules at all local cattle stations.
"By cutting gates and leaving fences open, you are exposing the greater community to possibly striking a cow at speed on the highway, which has the potential to cause a fatal car accident," Acting Sergeant Tamblyn said.
"You do not have authority to use firearms on other people's property, and if you are going to breach the firearms act we will be looking heavily at the offences."