WILD dogs and dingoes will all but kill the lamb and wool industry in NSW within the next 30 years, a government expert has warned.
But as debate rages across the country about how to tackle the growing impact of mongrel dogs, some scientists argue the part-dingoes are an essential part of a healthy ecosystem.
Tony Mayo, who mans the NSW section of the dingo fence which stretches more than 5500 kilometres from Western Australia to Queensland, and his ''boundary riders'' are the only thing standing between 5000 ravenous dogs and a multibillion-dollar industry that could be devastated by attacks on stock.
Originally a fencing contractor, Mr Mayo has managed the state's 600 kilometres of isolated fence for seven years, living hours from the closest town of Broken Hill.
He has overseen the removal of 250 cubic metres of sand off the fence after dust storms, difficult flood repairs, and the rebuilding of long and isolated lengths of the fence when fierce winds blew them over.
''It's never the same,'' he said. ''Right now, we're struggling with rust.''
With drought-breaking rains over the past two years the dogs, he said, had gone ''berserk''. ''There are more dogs now and that's the problem because, in a few years, when it starts getting dry again, they'll start getting desperate.''
The dogs are not alone, the emus and rabbits have gone berserk, too.
The almost two-metre-high dog fence follows a straight line through the barren red dust into the horizon. But for many, it is a drop in the ocean in the fight against deadly attacks on flocks of sheep in western NSW.
''Rangeland sheep producers will be gone in 30 years. Absolutely,'' said Ben Allen, a wild dog researcher for the Department of Primary Industries based in Broken Hill.
''The fence is doing a brilliant job,'' Mr Allen said. ''[But it] ultimately becomes redundant if you've got the same number of dogs on one side as the other. Dogs are winning.''
Mr Allen estimates there are about 1000 wild dogs in the great west of NSW.
But a University of NSW academic, Mike Letnic, would prefer those numbers grow, while acknowledging dingoes and sheep cannot live together harmoniously.
''Dingoes play a big role in maintaining ecosystems,'' Dr Letnic said.
Where wild dogs were present, there were vastly fewer kangaroos, fewer foxes, and endangered native animals such as bandicoots and native rodents flourished, he said.