A Week in the Wet Tropics

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Project Cane Changer officially commenced on May 23 when the BI team visited the Wet Tropics and Burdekin cane growing regions of Queensland. The team was there to  commence stakeholder engagement and conduct a number of interviews, meetings, and presentations with key stakeholders throughout the region. We visited 6 towns (Cairns, Gordonvale, Innisfail, Tully, Townsville), and engaged with 71 individuals representing 8 stakeholder groups including mills, NRM groups, and cane growers themselves. This was our first immersion into the sugar cane industry, and what an experience it was! We even got to nibble at some fresh cane (one of my personal highlights from the trip). 

Below is a snapshot of some of our key observations from the field:

  1. Growers have a high capacity for innovation and entrepreneurship. The industry is built on it, in fact. The intellect and capability to transform the industry is almost certainly embedded within the group already, it simply needs the right behavioural environment to flourish.

  2. It is fair to say that cane growers are a highly social community that are motivated to co-operate and do things for one another. This is an industry that was built on co-operation, and it is co-operation that will likely to see this industry prevail against its current challenges.

  3. Cane is the Reef success story we've been waiting for. The negative attention growers receive, especially in relation to the Reef, can be converted to a major advantage. Every major constituent implicated in the Reef ecosystem wants to see a positive shift in grower behaviour. There is enormous opportunity to make a positive example out of the cane industry and its leadership in protecting the reef.

  4. The CANEGROWERS organisation is ideally placed to lead a population-based approach to behavioural change within the cane industry. It is the organisation with the biggest reach, influence, and capability to bring together a significant cohort of growers to affect change.

  5. Leadership is evident within the grower community, especially the elected policy council members.

  6. Timing. They say timing is everything, and now is the right time. The industry is change ready. For all of the reasons listed above, there has never been a better time.

We are already planning our next visit to the area again in about 2 weeks, and will pick up where we left off.

We're looking forward to taking you with us on that trip too.

Until next time,
-Jinny