Job losses could heighten fire threat

Fires dash farmer’s hopes

09 December 2011

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Australia — Pastoralists in Western Australia’s mid-west are facing millions of dollars in losses after nine bushfires swept through 1500 sq km of prime grazing land this week.
Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA spokesman Edgar Richardson said on Friday livestock farmers were preparing for their best season in years after heavy seasonal rains, before the fires struck.
“It’s a disaster for those people because they’ve been going through a series of droughts for quite a few years,” he said.
“They’ve probably had their best winter and summer rains for many years – they’ve got all this grass (for grazing) and now it’s gone.”
Mr Richardson said it was too early to count livestock losses but estimated the cost to the industry would be in the millions.
“Whatever figure you come up with is probably not going to be enough anyway, because of the potential the season had to provide people with financial gain,” he said.
“But certainly millions of dollars.”
Fire and Emergency Services Authority spokesman Bruce Telfer said the fires were started by lightning in the region, following a series of thunderstorms two weeks ago.
The fires destroyed 150,000 hectares – 1500 sq km – of prime cattle and sheep grazing land through the Murchison, from the upper Gascoyne region down to Yalgoo, about 200km east of the port city of Geraldton.
“There’s been exceptional growth in the region,” Mr Telfer said.
“It’s the best feed stock we’ve had in living memory for some people because of the conditions over the past 12 months.
“But we were aware that any fires that did start in that area would cause us some significant problems.
“It’s a huge economic impact for the individual pastoralists.”
Rosco Faulkes-Taylor, who runs Yuin Station near Yalgoo, said the damage to grazing land would be “in the millions”.
“It was far and away the worst fire in recorded history as far as diaries we have on the property,” he said.
Helen Cripps, of nearby Gabyon Station, was hit hardest by the fires, losing 103,000ha of grazing land – more than a third of the total property.
Mrs Cripps said her property was looking the best it had “for 100 years” before the fires ravaged it.
“We’ve had a wonderful year (for rain) and that’s why we’ve got bushfires I guess, because there’s lots of good grazing (grass),” she said.
Mrs Cripps said it was too early to say how many of her 11,000 sheep had been lost, but it would be significant.
Graziers will meet with local authorities on Monday to assess the damage.

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