Thursday, August 24, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Crush just around the corner

By Kevin Borg, Chairman, CANEGROWERS Mackay

It seems as though the 2022 harvest has only just finished, but the 2023 harvest will roll out in the coming weeks.

Gear and heavy vehicles will already be moving around cane farming areas, and across the loco network, so it is important for the community to start thinking crush safety on the roads, and be on the lookout for harvest vehicles, and be patient if they encounter slower moving vehicles like tractors.

Every year, farmers send us dash cam footage of some crazy overtaking behaviour around haulout tractors, often wildly overtaking into oncoming traffic. We understand that everyone has places to be, and that coming up on a tractor when travelling at speed on a rural road can pose an obstacle. We urge drivers to expect that unexpected moment across harvest season, and be prepared to drive defensively: to be able to slow down and take a look ahead, and overtake safely and sensibly when safe.

If you are in any doubt about what tractor drivers and other road users are contending with- take a look at the dash cam stills with this column!

Likewise, take time for a proper look when crossing cane train lines. They are a long, large vehicle that CANNOT stop very quickly.

This year will bring an additional element, with Mackay Sugar introducing early and late lines. This will mean that haulout vehicles and locos will be on the move from as early as 2am and through to late night, adding the hazard of darkness. Please be very mindful of this when driving in cane farming and tramline areas.

Locos, haulout tractors, trucks moving harvesters- they are all part of a network that is earning export dollars for our region, and which is becoming more and more integral to the developing decarbonising economy as a sustainable source for fuels, bio-plastics, novel protein sources and more.

We also remind all those working in the sugarcane industry to take care- in the paddock, at the siding, on the road and in the shed. It would be excellent to see a harvest free of any significant workplace incidents. Families are the heart of our farming sector, and we want to see everyone home safe to theirs, every day.

Assuming all mills start on schedule, the crush will begin with Farleigh Mill on 1 June, then Marian Mill and Wilmar Plane Creek on 6 June, followed by Racecourse Mill on 8 June. Marian Mill will begin on one train, with the second scheduled to be running from 14 June.

Dashcam stills showing dangerous overtaking behaviour

Photo credit: Kirili Lamb.

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