Image for Burn-offs spark fear for grapes

THE Tasmanian wine industry is worried its 2011 vintage may go “up in smoke” because of forest burns in winegrowing regions before the grapes are harvested.

The statutory fire permit period ended on March 5 earlier than usual and a mild summer means the grape harvest is late, having only just commenced.

Peak industry body Wine Tasmania wants Forestry Tasmania, Parks and Wildlife and private landowners to postpone burn-offs until all the grapes have been harvested in a few weeks.

Growers fear smoke will damage their grapes.

“Of great concern to us grape growers and winemakers around harvest time is the sight of smoke,” Freycinet Vineyards winemaker Claudio Radenti said yesterday.

“Vineyards exposed to smoke for prolonged periods can absorb the smoke and impart a dreadful smoke taint in the wines which is near impossible to remove, making the wines unpalatable and therefore unsaleable.”

Wine Tasmania chief executive Sheralee Davies said she had talked to representatives of Forestry Tasmania and the Parks and Wildlife Service about the issue.

Forestry Tasmania had made a formal agreement with Wine Tasmania early last month to take the effect of smoke on unharvested grapes into consideration, she said.

More than 300 burns are listed on this year’s Forestry Tasmania schedule, with more than 15 already completed.

Burns by the forestry industry are posted at http://www.plannedburnstas. com.au and, within national parks, at http://www.parks. tas.gov.au

Full Mercury story HERE

Earlier on Tasmanian Times: The Burning Question, HERE

HEALTH MUST ESTABLISH FORESTRY BURNS PUBLIC HOTLINE
Forestry Burns Impact on Air Quality
Paul ‘Basil’ O’Halloran MP
Greens Health spokesperson

The Tasmanian Greens today called on the Minister for Health, Michelle O’Byrne, to establish a community hotline and website to advise people suffering from respiratory distress, which they believe to be related to the annual forestry burns, which are set to happen once again, across 300 forest coupes covering five districts.

Greens Health spokesperson Paul ‘Basil’ O’Halloran MP said that the Greens receive many complaints from people suffering from respiratory problems, such as asthma, who have no option in some cases but to pack up and leave home during the forest burns season.

Mr O’Halloran also called on the Minister for Forests, Bryan Green, to explain why this practice is still used given the known health impacts these actions can cause on the community.

“Minister O’Byrne admitted that there has previously been public-health alerts issued when there is potential for fine particles that can adversely affect someone’s health, such as people with asthma, but the Greens believe a help hotline and website should be established, to assist members of the public concerned about health impacts relating to the smoke pollution burns,” Mr O’Halloran said.

“Currently people can only get advice from Forestry Tasmania, and it undermines the faith people have in the information they receive due to the obvious conflict of interest about the burns, and they also need to access reliable independent health advice on impacts of the burns, as well as to register complaints.”

“The Minister now needs to work with the Director of Public Health, establish a community hotline and website, as well as a forestry burn-off database, which should record the nature of complaints and their related health impacts,” Mr O’Halloran said.