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Geelong

Bellarine peninsula

VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA

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About

Throughout central Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales, farmers hope spring will bring a thriving crop of canola. When flowering, the crop has a distinctive yellow glow, leading many to refer to it as the ‘Fields of Gold’. The farming heartlands, in which canola crops grow are only a day trip away; the plant only flowers for three or four weeks a year, but that’s enough time to send Instagrammers into a frenzy.

Farmers must now battle Instagrammers, as well as the drought. Canola is currently worth in excess of $650 per tonne, but the thousands of photographers who swarm these ‘Fields of Gold’ give little to no thought to the damage that they’re inflicting on farmers’ livelihoods.

As reported in Farm Weekly, "Tourists and day trippers looking at crops such as flowering canola could easily spread weed seeds and soil material that may contain a fungal disease on their footwear or vehicles to other properties, which could devastate crops,” says Jeff Russell (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) grains biosecurity officer).

Can ignorance really be an excuse for trespassing onto private land in search of the perfect photograph?

 

OVERVIEW

A brief snapshot of the problem currently facing Geelong & Bellarine Peninsula.

Click image to enlarge.

 
 
More than 112,829 posts have been recorded using the hashtag #canola
— Instagram Analytics
 
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The Online Presence

Search #canola, #bellarine, #geelong or #canolafields and you will find a plethora of images in which people have climbed fences to gain access to farmers’ canola fields. Some Instagrammers go as far as picking the flowers that house the pods which farmers harvest. It starts with one image in a feed; the following weekend, scores of Instagrammers are following geotags, plugging locations into the GPS for weekend road trips.

Source: INSTAGRAM


So What Does It Mean?

Climbing into crops to take selfies, family photos, or pose for fashion shoots all helps to create a hype. When you geotag your images, you create a road map others can follow in order to get their own trophy images. Visitors save your images and add them to a weekend or day-trip bucket list of places to travel. The video below shows what one image posted on social media can result in.

 
 
 
 
 
We lose thousands of dollars every year through damage to crops from trespassing.
— Trudy Miles
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Drones in Airport Airspace

Above: CASA Can I Fly There app shows the location and airspace marked as No Fly Zone or Protected Airport Airspace.

We were less than 500 metres from a major airport and people were using drones within airport airspace.

Whilst documenting trespassers in crops, I was located approximately 500 metres from a major commercial passenger airport and multiple people were flying drones at maximum altitude (120 metres). I could literally see planes on the runway from where I was standing. It felt sickening to consider what would happen if a commercial aircraft collided with the drone at high speed. There was a clearly marked No Fly Zone, but the tourists didn’t seem to care.

 
These two photographers trespassed for the perfect snap. And yes, one even mooned me!
 
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A farm in Western Australia, Petteet Park planted two hectares of canola specifically to allow tourists in to photograph it and reduce the impact on local farmers.
— Petteet Park
 
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“If you had a stranger walk onto your property, how would you react?

If this impacted on your annual income negatively, how would you feel?

So why is it ok to jeopardise farmers’ financial security?”

Graham Miles


Summary

The vibrant colours of canola field attract visitors far and wide, but do you really need to climb in it to get the shot?

Visitors need to recognise that the canola fields are someone’s private property, their livelihood, and are not planted for visitors to walk around in. The benefits of tourism to country towns are huge, but farmers are also being confronted with substantial damage to crops, especially in 2018, during a time where many parts of the country are experiencing drought. Additionally, the biosecurity risk — of tourists introducing pests and diseases — is substantial for farmers.


IN The Media

"Canola crop selfies a biosecurity risk"

WinNews Gippsland - September 26, 2018

"Canola crop photos anger farmers"  ABC News - September 03, 2018

"Canola crop photos anger farmers"

ABC News - September 03, 2018

"Wandering tourists are a biosecurity risk"  Farm Weekly - September 05, 2018

"Wandering tourists are a biosecurity risk"

Farm Weekly - September 05, 2018

"Concerns raised with tourists trampling.."  WA Advocate - September 05, 2017

"Concerns raised with tourists trampling.."

WA Advocate - September 05, 2017

"Canola Catch-22: Tourists trample on fields"  WA Today - September 09, 2017

"Canola Catch-22: Tourists trample on fields"

WA Today - September 09, 2017

"Cowra’s fields of gold"  Cowra Guardian - August 06, 2016

"Cowra’s fields of gold"

Cowra Guardian - August 06, 2016


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