Graziers count the cost
GAETA landholders stand to lose up to $1.8 million during the next three years, after 40,000 hectares of land was burnt to a cinder during the devastating bushfires that swept the region last month.
Grazier Hazle Marland said 13 properties were damaged in the fires, with some owners losing every scrap of pastoral land to the blaze.
Initial repairs to fences and infrastructure will cost an estimated $275,000, but the real financial impact will be felt during the coming years as the land struggles to recover.
A combination of fire and drought has left the land barren, with some graziers forced to pay up to $50,000 in December alone to buy feed for their stock.
Others sold their cattle due to the prohibitive costs.
Mrs Marland is hand-feeding about 600 starving cattle on her Kalpowar Road property, and expects to lose $200,000 in the next three years.
Her 12 neighbours stand to lose between $40,000 and $250,000 each, taking the total to $1.865 million.
“We’re in dire straits here — we’re still losing cattle. The situation is critical,” Mrs Marland said.
“With no feed, cows won’t cycle, so there will be no calves until the land recovers.”
With the ground so badly burnt, the pasture will only rejuvenate with rain and being spelled.
Gaeta View owner Bill Roffey, who spent his birthday this year watching the property burn, said he would “always remember that day”.
“Financially, I haven’t even started to add up the cost — it will be $250,000-plus,” he said.
His neighbour Athol Trigger, at Rosehill, said his land would take three to four years to recover properly.
“Everything was burned here,” Mr Trigger said.
“We’re travelling wide and far to get feed, and it’s pricey. Everyone is in the same boat.”
Mrs Marland said agistment was difficult to obtain because of the drought, and cattle were too weak to travel long distances.
But despite the wasted landscape, graziers felt hope as offers of help from the public came pouring in, which Mrs Marland described as “overwhelming”.
Donations of hay helped ease the burden, and students from Gatton and Emerald Agricultural Colleges and Gin Gin High School helped to rebuild damaged fences.