Kangaroo Island and Hills farmers have a long road back to full recovery after the devastation of the bushfires

RDA Manager of Adelaide Hills, KI and the Fleurieu Stephen Shotton at the Kingscote wharf.
RDA Manager of Adelaide Hills, KI and the Fleurieu Stephen Shotton at the Kingscote wharf.

The road back to recovery for the men and women on the land who experienced the devastation and horror of the bushfires may take "years", according to Food Producers Landowners Action Group Australia (FLAG) founder and executive director Peter Manuel.

"It will have a chain reaction on all business. Not just food production. There is the loss of stock and produce on Kangaroo Island and in the Hills and some are not insured," Mr Manuel said.

"It is not just about what the cattle farmers have lost, but what about the cattle in calf? There is no carry-on of the business and once you lose a gene pool, it takes years to get back."

Mr Manuel should know, as he is a Poll Hereford Stud farmer at Strathalbyn. He has strong beliefs on what needs to be done.

"We have not learnt anything from Ash Wednesday in 1983, the King Lake fires in 2009 where 120 died and Black Thursday in Victoria in 1851, which burnt five-and-a-half-million hectares. Sadly, fires have been happening in our country for centuries and we need to stop the green agenda in our country," he said.

"It has nothing to do with climate change or man-made global warming. it is about a green agenda that allows for roadside growth to get out of control and the prevention of cold burns in early spring and the lack of grazing in national parks to keep the vegetation down.

"I heard from several farmers that a national park was burning 10 acres and a farmer was ready to go in with a bulldozer to clear the vegetated fuel and he was stopped. It is crazy what is happening. We need to clear our roadsides, allow cold burning, graze in national parks and let farmers control what grows on their land."

Mr Manuel said the planting of low-density bush/scrub caused fires and that the government has not assisted the "mum and dad farmers".

"Charity should start at home and not in foreign aid. The economy starts at home. The government has taken water from farmers in the Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges in the form of Low Flow By-passes in dams. These devices take water from our dams and go to the environment. But it gives the farmer less water for stock and less water to protect lives and property. It devalues our properties and taxpayers are paying for this," he said.

Back Valley cattle producer and Environmental Scientist Marilyn Henderson refutes Mr Manuel's claims.

"It is scientific fact that the last 10 years is the hottest on record. With heat like that and with consistent drought conditions, it makes properties very vulnerable to a bushfire," Ms Henderson said.

"Without rain, the properties and vegetation get dry and become fuel for any fire. You cannot disregard the facts and it is so unfortunate what has occurred on Kangaroo Island and in the Hills. "

Regional Development Australia (RDA) Manager of the Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island Stephen Shotton said the fires on Kangarooo Island had caused significant loss of sheep and cattle and the demand for fodder is "through the roof".

"There is no real supply and moving anything to Kangaroo Island from the mainland is expensive," he said.

"There will be an impact on the economy on KI as they have experienced substantial infrastructure loss.

"The RDA's role is to take a leadership position in each region (KI and Hills) for driving a co-ordinated approach to medium-long term economic recovery by bringing priority infrastructure projects in each region into a shovel-ready and investment-ready state and securing funding support."

The RDA will now accelerate its programs to keep up with increased complexity and demand including grant program awareness, contributing to the operation of business support and rebuilding programs and promotion of state and federal programs related to disaster recovery and opportunities.

"We support the South Australian Tourism Commission's #BookThemOut campaign. Although half of the island has been burned, there is still half that has not and there are many magnificent beaches and restaurants to visit," he said.

"Adelaide Hills and KI are definitely open for business so we encourage people to plan and book their next trip. KI is recognised internationally."

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