On the surface, a link between a national car rally event and the sugarcane industry may seem unlikely, but after working together on operational requirements for Targa Great Barrier Reef, it quickly became evident that MSF Sugar and Targa Australia have an important connection in common – safety.
With the inaugural Targa Great Barrier Reef set to navigate through the cane fields of Cairns, Targa Australia knew early in their planning that they would need the cooperation of industry stakeholders to be able to run the event during peak crushing season.
With the first stage of the event set to take in the narrow and winding roads around Greenhills in Gordonvale, the organisers reached out to MSF Sugar to discuss ways in which the companies could work together to limit the potential impact on the company’s Mulgrave Mill operations.
Through discussions that followed, the parties discovered a strong business alignment on the shared core value of safety, with both companies engaged in educating the community about safety and safe behaviours when driving on the road.
The alignment has culminated in today’s announcement of a Community Engagement Partnership between MSF Sugar and Targa Australia, which will see the two companies working together on road safety initiatives relating to the event which commences on Friday 31 August.
As stated by MSF Sugar CEO Mike Barry, “MSF Sugar places a great deal of importance on the safety of its employees and the communities in which the business operates. During crushing season, interaction with the general public increases greatly and for this reason, the company invests heavily in community education campaigns.
“As sections of the course will navigate through our cane rail network during peak harvesting period, we are working with Targa Australia to ensure we deliver a safe crushing season as well as a safe event”.
As Community Engagement Partners, MSF Sugar will work with Targa Australia to educate visitors to the region about the cane rail network, and communicate with employees and growers about the impacts of the event on harvesting operations.
“Targa Australia identified early in our planning that we would need to engage with MSF Sugar to ensure the safety of competitors while they were interacting with the cane rail network in the region” said Targa Australia’s Event Director Mark Perry.
“It then became evident that our footprint would be far reaching with mill employees, growers, harvesters and visitors to the region all needing to work together to achieve a safe event”
“Through partnering with MSF Sugar, Targa Australia is able to engage more appropriately with these groups throughout the event and to ensure that our course is exciting yet safe for our competitors.”
Mr Barry agrees. “We are happy to support the event as it draws attention to the region and to the sugarcane industry, which is an iconic part of the Far North Queensland landscape and contributes to delivering a unique competitor and spectator experience.
“We absolutely want the general public to enjoy the spectacle of Targa Great Barrier Reef, but to remain alert and vigilant around our cane rail network while they are here”.
For many tourists who visit Far North Queensland, the small gauge lines of the cane railway network are unknown and in the past, visitors have mistaken the network for a dis-used track.
It’s a serious issue for motorists as MSF Sugar locomotive drivers have witnessed caravans and trailers stopped over cane railway lines at busy road intersections, appearing not to realise that the railway network is active and that a cane train may soon be travelling towards them.
It’s a concern that’s very real for MSF Sugar’s Mulgrave Mill Manager Chris Hoare.
“It’s important to be alert to locomotive movement’s right throughout the season and it’s particularly important that visitors to the region understand what the cane rail network is for.
“We want people to enjoy the Targa Great Barrier Reef rally and to experience the atmosphere of the event without putting themselves or our workforce at risk, and this means acting safely around cane railway lines and road crossings.
“While we are working with Targa Australia to limit locomotive movements during the Greenhills stage of the course, the rest of our network will be fully operational and as soon as the event moves onto the next stage, we will be back to full operations around Mulgrave Mill as well.
“We encourage motorists to look for cane railway crossings as they navigate to and through areas of the course on roads that they’re not familiar with – particularly on the narrow, winding rural roads associated with the official stages of the event.
With around 70% of competitors travelling from interstate, the road safety message is critical as across Far North Queensland, the cane rail network will be operating as normal 24 hours 7 days per week.
“MSF Sugar is firmly committed to providing a safe workplace for employees, and is equally committed to providing a safe environment for the general public. However we can’t do it all – at some point motorists must be responsible for their own safety and for the safety of family and friends who are travelling with them” said Mr Barry.
“On rural roads in particular, motorists interact with our cane rail network through what we call ‘passive’ crossings – these crossings have Give Way signs only. There are no flashing lights, no boom gates and no audible signals so it’s absolutely vital that motorists are paying attention.”
While the event will impact on a small number of growers who supply to Mulgrave Mill, MSF Sugar and Targa Australia will work together to minimise the impact on harvesting operations, with the process managed in consultation with impacted growers.
Questions regarding the event should be directed to the Targa Australia on 03 6221 8800. Spectators are asked not to enter private farm properties to watch the race.