Proposed legislation gives CFS power to stop harvest

New legislation could prevent Eyre Peninsula farmers from harvesting during the fire danger season if the Country Fire Service (CFS) deems the risk to fire “likely”.

Minister for Emergency Services Corey Wingard introduced a bill last week that could give CFS volunteers the power to ban farmers from harvesting during weather conditions that may cause a fire.

Opposition spokesman for primary industries Eddie Hughes said it appeared the state government had abandoned regional South Australia and the agriculture industry.

“They reacted...instead of being proactive on the matter,” he said.

“People needed to be properly consulted before the bill was brought into parliament.

“You can’t just develop legislation on the run without consulting with the affected communities.”

The Fire and Emergency Services Amendment Bill 2018 proposed that if conditions were likely to be a source of danger to life or property in the event of fire, or were likely to cause an outbreak of fire the CFS could take action.

Mr Hughes said the opposition moved to establish a committee to investigate the bill on Tuesday but were denied before the government gave into industry concerns and introduced its own committee. 

Grain Producers SA chair Wade Dabinett expressed similar concerns about the proposed legislation.

“Our understanding at present is that it will give individuals in the CFS greater powers to direct growers to stop harvesting,” he said.

“The risk of fire is something every farmer manages every day during the fire danger season.”

Mr Dabinett said many farmers were volunteers with the CFS in regional areas.

“GPSA is concerned about this because it seems as though grain harvesting is being caught up in a ‘catch-all’ approach to reduce fire risk for any number of activities the CFS deems risky,” he said.

“It does not acknowledge any level of mitigation of fire risk and does not take into account an individual’s capacity to manage fire risk.”