North-east Victorian wine producers hope improved communication and preparedness for the fire season can deliver better outcomes for the local industry.
The North East Wine Zone Working Group, formed after the Black Summer bushfires, has been holding meetings with the Country Fire Authority (CFA), crop farmers and other stakeholders in the lead-up to the season.
A key aspect of the discussions has been the need to balance the interests of the grape-growing industry with crop farmers who undertake stubble burns to reduce crop residues.
The group’s chair Robert Hawkings said they were eager to avoid the significant impacts the local wine industry had felt during the Black Summer bushfires.
“The direct loss was about $142 million,” he said.
“[That] was pretty significant and certainly caused a lot of issues particularly as it was followed so quickly afterwards by COVID.”
Mr Hawkings said the impacts of smoke taint on crops was the number one issue the group wanted to address.
He said there was a great deal of of concern among growers about the impact prescribed burns could have in particular areas.
“We have been working with CFA, Forest Fire Management and others over many years but on an individual region basis to try and — if they’re going to be burned at a particular time — make sure there is as few people impacted as possible,” he said.
“What we’ve been able to do this year is get together across the whole north-east to have a larger discussion around that to try and make sure we are working together.”
Mr Hawkings said the group were also keen to get ahead of the fire season in other ways, including the roll-out of 100 smoke sensors across the region that would gather data on the likely impact of smoke compounds in the atmosphere on grape crops.
Local CFA involvement
The Fire Danger Period (FDP) for council areas across north and north-eastern Victoria begins on Monday.
The CFA said it had become involved in the North East Wine Zone Working Group meetings due to the fact that a lot of the stubble burns for crop farmers took place when the FDP was still in force and permits needed to be issued for burns.
District 24 commander Brett Myers said the formation of the local wine group had been very welcome.
“The community have identified this issue between the two industries and of course it involves us because it’s surrounding the use of fire,” he said.
“So we’re more than happy to be at the table to be part of that conversation to make sure we can all work together.”
Source : BBCNews