Cane farmers want development

Sunshine Coast councillors Debbie Blumel and Vivien Griffin inspect caneland near the Sunshine Motorway. Photo: Mike Garry/scw765a
Sunshine Coast councillors Debbie Blumel and Vivien Griffin inspect caneland near the Sunshine Motorway. Photo: Mike Garry/scw765a

Imagine 13,000 hectares of undeveloped land smack bang in the middle of one of Australia’s most sought-after residential addresses and desirable tourist destinations.

That’s the salivating situation frustrating our biggest developers.

It’s also frustrating local cane farmers, many of whom have been growing sugar cane for generations.

Since the Moreton Mill closed in 2003, Sunshine Coast cane farmers have sold to hopeful developers, embraced Biocane or diversified into crops such as pineapples, ginger and lychees.

A new CSIRO report has recommended – among other less likely options – a balance of development, niche farming and other productive uses of the land while protecting the 7900 hectares of flood plains.

Sunshine Coast Canelands Action Group spokesman Jay Chandler said promoting mixed use of the land was the answer.

“It does not have to be all development,” he said.

“But to continue to think it can remain as it is, is denying reality.”

Division nine councillor Vivien Griffin was reluctant to pre-empt council’s response to the report, instead suggesting council should work in partnership with landowners to find a sustainable future for the canelands

But she said residential development was “really not on the agenda”.

Division eight councillor Debbie Blumel said former caneland on the western side of the Sunshine Motorway from the river to Coolum was not suitable for urban development.

“And I can’t see that it ever would be,” Ms Blumel said.

“These farms aren’t owned by canefarmers. They’ve been bought up by the big development companies.

“So the suggestion that there are canefarmers here doing it tough, wanting to sell, is really not correct.

“That may be so in other places but here it’s development companies that are just simply landbanking and they can just afford to sit on these parcels of land until they get the political will at different levels of government to allow residential development to go ahead.”

She said where cane farmers were genuine about wanting to find alternative agricultural uses for their land, the council would talk to them and help them “because the prosperity of farms and farmers and farming families” was “very important”.

“We’re seeing peak oil happening at a rate of knots and we need to be able to grow our own agricultural products and horticultural products,” she said.

“There’s a lot of people renewing their interest in schools of permaculture and the sorts of activities that will allow us to be sustainable into the future when peak oil hits.”

“So maintaining this land’s agricultural purposes is very important in that scenario.”

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