More Out-Of-Control burns heat up pressure on Gov

Jun 12, 2023

Not even one month after an uncontrolled fire on Government land triggered Traeger MP Robbie Katter to request an inquiry into the State Government’s aggressive take-up of land without properly resourcing it, several more blazes have broken out.

Katter’s Australian Party Leader and Member for Traeger Robbie Katter received complaints that constituents were left to battle two grass fires in about two weeks 30 kilometres east of Hughenden that were likely caused by cattle train activity and nearby high fuel loads.

Mr Katter said it once again raised an eyebrow over the validity of the cattle rail contract, which had attracted complaints and been associated with many problems since Aurizon was removed as operator last year.

He said a key concern was the lack of firebreak and slashing operations along the Great Northern Railway from Townsville to Mount Isa, exacerbating the risk of larger-scale burns as the fire season heated up later into the year.

It came just weeks after a poorly-publicised controlled burn in the White Mountains National Park west of Charters Towers burned out of control, leaving ill-equipped property owners to fight it and lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in resources and assets.

“The real issue here is the lack of resources to maintain and upkeep the national parks, and now the railway corridor, that the Palaszczuk Labor Government insists on continuing to acquire,” Mr Katter said.

Further north, the KAP’s Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter and Member for Hill Shane Knuth slammed another controlled burn that went “horribly wrong” in Forty Mile Scrub National Park, replacing vibrant jungle with kilometres of burnt-out trees.

They echoed calls for more national park management resources or for land to be returned to private ownership.

“There is a severe lack of education, equipment and manpower in this space,” Robbie Katter said.

“We know some of these burns are only monitored visually on the Northern Australian Fire Information website, and that the assistance offered by National Parks when fires get out of control is short-lived and minimal, with many rangers stretched past capacity as they manage and working on several parks.

“And the graziers left to fight the blazes alone are left out of pocket with no emergency financial assistance.”

He said if the State Government continued its aggressive reach over obtaining more land that was currently being well-managed by landholders, it was imperative the Government allocated more resources to support it.

In a promising development, Mr Katter’s office received an update from QRail stating that following community concern regarding fires being started by rail operations, a full slash was underway from Townsville to Hughenden, and two fire break grading crews were progressing work from Mount Isa, continuing east of Julia Creek.

The update also stated that QRail would continue working on more resources for fire break maintenance as quickly as possible, including talks with local brigades to discuss burning in the corridor.