Fires hurt cane in­dus­try

Central and North Rural Weekly - - OPINION - KEVIN BORG CANEGROWERS

THE last cou­ple of weeks of weather con­di­tions will go down in his­tory for its vari­abil­ity.

The cen­tral re­gion went from what has been de­scribed as un­prece­dented fire storm con­di­tions on Novem­ber 28 to re­ceiv­ing some of the most wel­come rain we have seen since last April.

Un­for­tu­nately, Canegrowers Mackay has to re­port that around 1.4 per cent of the Mackay Sugar area has been im­pacted by the fires that have not only taken a toll on next year’s crop but also on the well-be­ing of some of our mem­bers.

Canegrowers Mackay is aware of 374 hectares of cane land that were burnt in the Pi­o­neer Val­ley and 600 hectares also burnt at the Blue Moun­tain area, with these two ar­eas be­ing the worst im­pacted.

We have also been sup­port­ing one grower in the Pi­o­neer Val­ley who lost his crop, house and sheds, as well as other grow­ers who lost sheds and ir­ri­ga­tion and farm equip­ment.

The Carmila fire was mostly con­tained in the hills with about six hectares of cane area burnt at Carmila west. That fire was burn­ing for at least three weeks prior to the high risk pe­riod last week.

Mostly in­hos­pitable and in­ac­ces­si­ble coun­try was burned, how­ever some cat­tle prop­er­ties on the western side of the ranges were af­fected.

Re­gret­tably, we are hear­ing that there is a re­luc­tance by gov­ern­ment de­part­ments to al­low the burn­ing of these forested ar­eas be­cause of the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts cre­ated by fires.

The con­di­tions that need to be fol­lowed by ad­ja­cent prop­erty own­ers want­ing to con­trol-burn these ar­eas along with road re­serves and road­sides are, to say the least, oner­ous.

This in turn de­ters burn­ing mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for prop­erty own­ers to con­trol-burn, which then leads to the ad­verse fuel load sit­u­a­tion, as seen in this re­cent bush­fire event.

An in­quiry be­ing im­ple­mented by the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment into the causes of this event and to iden­tify and ad­dress these is­sues is wel­comed by Canegrowers Mackay.

The State Gov­ern­ment needs to take greater proac­tive mea­sures with land­hold­ers to re­duce fuel loads on crown land, which in turn re­duces risk to crops and neigh­bour­ing prop­er­ties.

There has been a spec­tac­u­lar dis­play of com­mu­nity co­he­sion through­out these dif­fi­cult times where they have come to­gether in sup­port of each other.

Many not only pro­vided their own time but also pro­vided their own pri­vate equip­ment such as graders, bull­doz­ers, trac­tors and fire­fight­ing equip­ment, in ad­di­tion to work­ing long hours in an at­tempt to con­trol these fires.

As this is my last com­ment for 2018, I would like to thank all Ru­ral Weekly read­ers for their in­ter­est in the lo­cal sugar in­dus­try the part it plays in our com­mu­nity.

I also want to take this op­por­tu­nity to wish you one and all a very happy Christ­mas and a good start to 2019.

Please what­ever you are do­ing dur­ing the fes­tive sea­son, stay safe.

PHOTO: EMMA MUR­RAY

WILD WEATHER: Rain­fall in the Mackay re­gion has been wel­comed after dev­as­tat­ing fires da­m­aged more than 900 hectares of cane in the area.

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