Background

Bushfire Recovery & Resilience in Horticulture

COURSE CONTENT

Introduction

The Bushfire Recovery and Resilience in Horticulture Industry – Central Queensland Pilot Project was an initiative of Growcom, Queensland’s peak industry body for horticulture. The intention of the project was to support recovery, preparedness and long-term resilience of horticulture growers in Livingstone Shire Council (LSC), to increasing threats of bushfire.

Livingstone Shire Council (LSC) supports a vibrant, expanding $13.5M commercial horticulture industry; in November 2019 the shire was seriously impacted by bushfires causing immediate losses of infrastructure (irrigation, netting and farm equipment) and long term income losses as a result of fire and smoke-damaged crops. The immediate financial costs to the horticulture industry alone was estimated to be upwards of $10M.

Coupled with previous natural disasters – Tropical Cyclones Marcia/Oswald – the bushfires compounded impacts of local financial hardship, dependence on government assistance, mental stress and reduced resilience to future disasters.

The intended outcomes of the Bushfire Recovery and Resilience in Horticulture Industry – Central Queensland Pilot Project were a partnership-based approach between industry, local government, horticulture growers and community groups; high level of supportive communication and engagement with the horticulture industry to support capacity building and preparedness so that the horticulture industry is better equipped to manage risk of bushfire and/or recover quickly from bushfire; and sharing of “lessons learned” and existing resources between other bushfire impacted horticulture regions in Queensland (Rockhampton, Gladstone, Bundaberg, North/South Burnett) and/or interstate.

Podcasts

Part 1 – Bigger, Faster, Stronger, Hotter, More Frequent – Resilient Farming in the Face of Extreme Weather.

In this episode we discuss a question posed by Richard Shannon- how do we ensure that horticulture is more resilient in the face of extreme weather events?

To set the scene, what conditions are Australian horticulture growers operating under and how are they ensuring they remain financially viable when dealing with natural disasters?

Central Queensland’s Sandi Groves has ensured multiple disaster events and has emerged with a stronger business- listen to how she did it.

Ed Cowie is in partnership on a farm with his father and was severely impacted by the same 2019 fires. But in terms of disaster fatigue, Ed has unique insights, stemming from his roles in emergency services as a police officer, fire officer and SES controller, with an in-depth knowledge of farming systems.

So how bad can it get… and what can growers do to be resilient to natural disasters?

Richard Eckard is Professor of Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Melbourne and Director of the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre (www.piccc.org.au), a research centre addressing the impacts of climate change on agriculture. He says proactive farmers are already counteracting the effects of climate change.

This episode is brought to you by Growcom and the Rural Financial Counselling Service NQ and the Rural Financial Counselling Service Network.

Part 2 – Bigger, Faster, Stronger, Hotter, More Frequent – Resilient Farming in the Face of Extreme Weather.

In Part 2 of our feature on building resilience in the Australian horticulture industry, we hear how improving the mental health of farmers is key to the industry’s longevity.

Rural Aid is an organisation dedicated to improving the mental health outcomes of rural Australia. They often have multi-tiered roles in natural disasters… https://www.ruralaid.org.au/

Lauren Stracey is their national manager for mental health and wellbeing.

The National Recovery and Resilience Agency was established by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in response to recommendations from the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements. We hear from Shane Stone, the Co-Ordinator General of the agency and Bruce Scott- western Queensland cattleman, and one of Shane’s ‘boots on the ground’ with the Agency.

They want to change the narrative around how the Federal Government supports rural industries and put more focus on preparation alongside recovery.

We also hear from Lena Knudson from Growcom, the peak industry body for horticulture. Though based in Queensland, Growcom delivers national-scale projects and policy initiatives.

Special thanks to the team at There’s An Elephant In My Paddock  An agricultural podcast that brings together farmers, scientists, consumers, industry and thought leaders to try and answer those tricky but crucial questions everyone else is avoiding.

RESOURCES

Horticulture Bushfire Toolkit: Your glovebox guide to bushfire preparedness specific to orchardists and other horticulture crops.

The following case studies were developed featuring different approaches adopted by horticultural growers impacted by the Cobraball bushfire: