Seed potato growers on Kangaroo Island hit hard by bushfires

Seed potato growers on Kangaroo Island hit hard by bushfires

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HEARTBREAKING: Seed potato farmer Peter Lock watches as the bulldozer clears damaged plantation trees from around the shed site off Turkey Lane.

HEARTBREAKING: Seed potato farmer Peter Lock watches as the bulldozer clears damaged plantation trees from around the shed site off Turkey Lane.

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Peter Lock's home, shed and equipment on Turkey Lane all totally destroyed by fire.

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KANGAROO Island's six seed potato producers were all hit to some degree by the summer's bushfires.

But none more so than Peter Lock, whose home, shed and equipment on Turkey Lane west of Parndana were all totally destroyed by fire, while he lost his nearby potato crops too.

He is now negotiating with Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers to purchase the land where his home and shed once stood and has permission to remove damaged blue gums.

Previously he leased what was known as "McGill's Shed" from the company but now the fire had presented him the opportunity to purchase it outright.

And he was smiling when Australian Community Mediacaught up with him earlier this month when a bulldozer was knocking down the plantation bluegums on 12-hectares of the land.

Trees bulldozed

Mr Lock's tree removal job was the first job for the D7 bulldozer brought over the Island by heavy machine operator Daniel Haby, whose own property was also damaged in the fire.

The potato farmer wanted to remove the trees around what will be his new shed and home for safety reasons.

When the fire ripped through Turkey Lane on January 3, the potato farmer and his 15 or so workers had to flee for their lives.

The fire not only took the shed, boxes and boxes of potatoes, his packing and cool rooms, forklift, trucks and farm machinery, it also destroyed his own house and the backpacker accommodation.

GONE: The D7 bulldozer at work removing damaged trees off Turkey Lane.

GONE: The D7 bulldozer at work removing damaged trees off Turkey Lane.

"The list goes on and on, it took everything," he said.

Other potato producers lost crops, sheds and farm infrastructure.

Many of Mr Lock's workers helped fight the fires and also stayed on for the initial clean-up and subsequent recovery.

The whole Island seed potato industry was set back by the fires and is running about 10 weeks behind schedule.

He had now hired five local permanently and also had up to 10 backpackers and casuals working.

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Mr Lock and his workers recently finished their first harvest since the fire, having dug up and packaged about 1200 tonnes of seed potatoes from his north coast paddocks.

The seed potatoes are shipped to the mainland and used by commercial growers around Australia.

He was then planting 36 hectares of new seed potatoes, which should yield a harvest of around 600 tonnes in spring.

The break of the season had been good and mild enough to allow the harvest to go ahead smoothly.

WORK: The D7 bulldozer at work removing damaged trees off Turkey Lane.

WORK: The D7 bulldozer at work removing damaged trees off Turkey Lane.

The Island's potato farmers did receive help from the Potatoes South Australia organisation that shipped over 500 replacement wooden potato boxes.

Kangaroo Island producers are significant contributors to the Australian potato industry due to the Island's stringent biosecurity protocols.

South Australia is Australia's largest producer of certified seed.

Mainland SA growers produced about 27 per cent of the nation's seed potato requirements, and the Island produces 16 per cent independently of that.

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