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It's arson or I'm a methodist preacher, says canegrower

Cane farmer John 'Stevo' Stevens in one of the patches of cane believed to have been deliberately lit.
Cane farmer John 'Stevo' Stevens in one of the patches of cane believed to have been deliberately lit. Robyne Cuerel

HE HAS survived floods, droughts and economic crashes but few things have rattled hardened Maryborough cane farmer John Stevens like losing an entire crop to senseless firebugs.

Mr Stevens was working an hour away on Saturday when a neighbour alerted his wife that a fire was tearing through land owned by two of the couple's grandsons at the Pocket.

Firefighters were called and neighbours pitched in but the blaze blackened more than 600 tonnes of cane worth more than $20,000.

Closer inspection of the field suggested the fire had been lit in three separate places.

Mr Stevens believes the act was most likely committed by bored kids with no insight into the devastation they were about to cause.

"We see a lot of kids running around the farm like it's a public place," Mr Stevens said

"They wouldn't like it if we ran around in their backyard - that's what this is, our backyard is just a bit bigger than theirs."

If the cane can't be milled, the grandsons, one of whom works at the sugarmill, will be compensated through the Canegrowers Association to the tune of about $20 per tonne but the cost of destroying the cane alone will likely exceed what little profit they may make.

Maryborough police have confirmed they visited the scene and are awaiting a report from Queensland Fire Service to determine the cause of the blaze.

Mr Stevens said while he would like to give those responsible "a good kick up the butt with my boot", he knows the chance of them being caught was unlikely.

He hopes a full investigation and a warning from authorities will at least get the message out that "playing games on a farm is playing with people's livelihoods".

"If it wasn't arson, I'm a Methodist preacher and I can assure you I am far from that," Mr Stevens said.

"We have worked hard all our lives, we are struggling to keep our heads above water - just have a think about what you are doing."

Topics:  arson editors picks fires sugar cane



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