Australia– An estimated 414 farms and 30,853 hectares of agricultural land have been affected by the bushfires still burning in south-west Western Australia. The Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) is working with Western Dairy and WAFarmers to assess the damage to farming industry around Waroona, Harvey and Yarloop.
But a DAFWA spokesman said there was still limited access to the region and much of the extent of fire damage was still unknown, including the number of livestock lost.
DAFWA South West regional director Neil Guise said with the bushfire continuing to burn in the region it was vital that farmers work closely with the department.
Mr Guise said that farmers and landholders still required permits for vehicle access to affected regions.
“Those that require urgent access for stock feed, fuel or livestock transport can call the DAFWA helpline,” Mr Guise said.
“DAFWA will attempt to negotiate access approval through the relevant authority.”
Mr Guise said the department was aware that there was “quite a lot of damage” to farmland and infrastructure, but he said DAFWA was still operating within an emergency situation.
“We’ve got staff working on this, including vets,” he said.
“They have begun carrying out livestock assessments on impacted properties where we have been able to get access through a permit system.”
Mr Guise said the current priority of DAFWA was to ensure farmers registered their information.
He said DAFWA was in the position of trying to ensure that businesses including livestock and horticulture properties and dairy farms continued operating.
“We need to know what their situation is so we can try to help arrange for access [to properties],” he said.
Mr Guise said he could not confirm the number of livestock losses but said many dairy farms had been forced to dump milk, due to road closures and power outages.
Farm access frustration
WAFarmers president Dale Park told ABC 720 that bushfire-affected farmers were growing frustrated with the lack of access into bushfire-affected regions.
Mr Park said that the structure of bushfire response was too cautious and the top-down model of all decisions being made by an incident controller was in place so that the government had “someone to blame” if something went wrong.
According to Mr Park, despite road closures livestock farmers were driving through roadblocks to feed their animals.
“[Emergency services] are trying to lock the whole place down,” he said.
“Even though we know the locals are going in and out around the back roads.”