Cape York graziers say cattle stations bought for conservation are now going up in smoke
Stacey Marriot fights a fire on the nearby State Government-owned Springvale Station. (Supplied: Joy Marriott)
Graziers say massive fires burning in Cape York Peninsula have exposed devastating consequences from a Queensland Government policy to buy up cattle stations for conservation.
The fires, believed to have been deliberately lit, have burnt tens of thousands of hectares of conservation and grazing land near Lakeland, about three hours drive north of Cairns.
Landholders have told the ABC they are considering taking legal action against neighbouring property owners — including the Queensland Government-owned Springvale Station — for failing to contain or prepare for bushfires that have raged through the region for weeks.
Joy Marriott said she and her daughter fought the fire on their Mountain View property, just north of Lakeland, for nine days and nights before it was safe.
She said she lost 2,000 hectares of grazing land.
Ms Marriott has taken aim at state-owned Springvale Station and nearby Kings Plains Station for not doing enough to fight the fires.
A burnt-out section of the State Government’s Springvale Station on the border of Stacey Marriott’s Mountain View Station. (Supplied Stacey Marriott)
“They [Springvale Station] had no plan, they had no fall-back position and they had no clear management decision-making process, so there was really no-one we could contact,” Ms Marriott said.
“They said, ‘no we don’t want to back-burn Springvale, you can’t light on us’.
“Springvale is now completely burnt out, then it came over the top of us, it is catastrophic.
“There’s wallabies that have been coming on to our place with their faces singed off, all the quolls and anything on the ground, all the frilled-necked lizards, they are just dead, everywhere.”
The State Environment Department said in a statement that “considerable resources have been used in attempts, alongside neighbours to control and contain this wildlife”.
“The department has also put significant resources into fire management since it purchased Springvale, under a fire management plan, upgrading fire breaks and doing mitigation burns,” the department said.
Nearby, the privately managed Kings Plains Station, owned by the South Endeavour Trust, has lost around 70,000 hectares this year due to several fires.
The property was purchased in 2013, “in order to protect its unique ecosystems from a range of weeds and other threats”.
‘We all know it was arson’
Director of the trust, Tim Hughes, denied de-stocking the property to focus on carbon farming had in any way compromised fire management practices on Kings Plains.
“We did a vast amount of preventative burning at Kings Plains prior to the fire season,” he said.
“These fires have cost us $150,000 in lost carbon credits alone.”
A satellite map showing the locations of fires around Lakeland on Cape York. (Supplied: Geoscience Australia)
Mr Hughes said he was struggling to understand why neighbours were blaming his property rather than the arsonists who lit the fires.
“We had fires lit on September the 1st, 5th, 10th and the 21st — we all know that it was arson,” he said
The Rural Fire Service said multiple crews from Cooktown, Mareeba, Julatten, Laura and Bull Head were working to control the fire.
Meanwhile, Ms Marriott said the State Government’s buying up of cattle stations for “nature reserves” had stifled economic development in the region.
“There’s no development, nothing is happening and Lakeland is probably one of the last agricultural strongholds in Cape York, ” she said.
“The State Government has a great desire to turn Lakeland into another Centrelink sink-hole.
“We don’t want to be that.
“Springvale and Kings Plains are now totally reliant on government money.”