Chair Column – December 2019

– Stephen Lowe

Bushfire Appeal

The recent destructive East Coast bushfires once again highlighted the pure devastation mother nature can inflict on farming families – and communities as a whole – and the sheer resilience often required for affected growers to get back on their feet.

Fires on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales caused hundreds of thousands of dollars damage to crops, infrastructure and machinery belonging to four dedicated banana growers. In Central Queensland, at Cobraball, west of Yeppoon, local grower Richard Benson also lost thousands of banana plants and irrigation equipment, while risking his own life trying to fight the fire.

Far North Queensland growers, like myself, know all too well the heartache of extreme weather events, having experienced a number of destructive tropical cyclones in the past.

Following these events, our growers have always received strong industry support, and I would encourage all growers and the wider community to get behind our bushfire affected southern counterparts (if you have the means to do so) by supporting a special Go Fund Me campaign established to raise much needed funding for all five growers involved.

While it’s a relatively small number of farms affected, the financial impacts to each grower have been enormous. These businesses are also all of a smaller scale, often with just one or a handful of people working on the farm, which means the road to clean-up and recovery is going to be a long one.

You can find out more about the farmers’ personal stories and links to the Banana Bushfire Appeal fundraising page on Pages 10-13 of this magazine.

Trespass issues

Trespass onto banana farms in the Tully and Innisfail areas continues to be an issue of major concern.

Despite the fact that entering any private property without consent is illegal, it’s of added concern in the Cassowary Coast area because of the presence of Panama tropical race 4 (TR4) in the Tully Valley.

Concerns of increased illegal entry onto banana farms were raised at the Cassowary Coast Banana Growers’ Association meeting in October.

Complaints of trespass have largely involved local hunters entering properties, as well as tourists.

As a consequence, an urgent meeting was organised by the Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) at South Johnstone and was attended by growers, other industry representatives and local Queensland police.

The meeting was very well attended and was a great chance for the police representatives present to explain the laws surrounding trespass and how growers can take appropriate action against offenders, including prosecution.

It was great to see the industry had the full support of local police in addressing this very significant issue. It was also heartening to have the Cassowary Coast Regional Council, Biosecurity Queensland, Canegrowers and other industry stakeholders on board in this renewed attempt to increase community awareness.

For more information on your rights as a landholder and steps to prosecute people illegally entering your farm, turn to Page 18.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

On a final note, l’d like to take this opportunity – on behalf of ABGC – to wish everyone a happy, healthy Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year.

See you again in 2020.