29 June, 2023
Road takes toll on businesses
THE biggest producers of avocadoes on the Tablelands has made a impassioned plea to Tablelands Regional Council to seal Godfrey Road, claiming the dirt road is contributing to a significant loss of income from damaged fruit and affecting other local businesses.
Shelley and Peter Howe, of Rock Ridge Farming, which has a 180-acre farm that produced around 912 tonnes of avocadoes last year, say it is critical the the fruit they produce is of the highest quality unless it will be downgraded from premium to second grade, costing them more than $500,000 each season.
Currently, 2.9km of Godfrey Road is unsealed and is the only route that can be used to transport their produce from the farm through Kairi to market.
“In the past two years, there has been a 56 per cent increase in volume of avocadoes grown in Australia, and 42 per cent of the trees in the Far North Queensland region are not yet in full production,” Mrs Howe told council.
“This means production is likely to increase at least another 50 per cent in the next two years.
“Due to the dramatic increase in volume of avocadoes grown in our region, it is crucial that we supply fruit of the highest quality to survive in a highly competitive market.”
But lenticel damage done to the fruit caused by impact, vibration or rubbing of the fruit within the fi rst 24 hours of it being picked was taking a toll, with those who inspect the fruit upon arrival at the markets “very harsh” on such damage.
“We already downgrade approximately 10 per cent of our Hass crop at the pack shed level to try and avoid a rejection at supermarket level, and we receive formal warnings from the supermarkets for lenticel damage,” Mrs Howe told council
“The next step from a warning is a rejection where they refuse to buy our fruit.”
Another business, Tablelands Equine Centre, says it also is being negatively impacted by the road being unsealed, with one of their clients removing their prize-winning dressage horses from the property after they developed “severe and persistent coughing” which a vet attributed to prolonged exposure to the dust emanating from Godfrey Road.
Mrs Howe told council recent traffic counts taken to inform council of the road’s usage were not accurate because trucks that were used during harvesting at the Godfrey Road farm were not there in the second week of the counts.
Mr Howe said apart from the impact the road was having on their farming operations, the town of Kairi deserved better.
“Council owes it to the township of Kairi to seal Godfrey Road because the whole road is upwind of Kairi and on a windy day, the dust just drifts down over Kairi - I think it’s probably the dirtiest town on the Tablelands,” he said.
Mrs Howe also raised safety issues with some areas of the road, namely a culvert that had steep unprotected sides, and limited visibility at the top of a hill where the road takes an unexpected change of direction at the peak.
“Recent grading has also brought red mud from table drains onto the road surface and, as proven last time this happened, the road gets very slippery in wet weather and is cause for serious concern,” she said.
Later in the council meeting, Cr David Clifton moved that given Godfrey Road’s economic signifi cance, funds be allocated to seal the road as a matter of priority when funding becomes available.
After a lengthy discussion, council agreed to make the road a priority but also called for a report that listed all gravel roads that may have similar significance in transporting produce.