Sugar cane burning

Cane farmers have a legal right to burn cane but must notify their immediate neighbours and avoid burning during unacceptable times and weather conditions.

The Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation (Clean Air Regulation) provides lawful approval for certain activities, including agricultural burning operations.

The cane growing areas in NSW are the furthest south in Australia and the climate is cooler and wetter than in Queensland. When such crops are harvested green the very thick trash blanket left on the soil surface has been proven to having a significant negative impact on productivity because soil temperatures are lowered which inhibits re-growth of the cane crop.

In New South Wales burning of cane before harvest is still common practice. Burning before harvest produces a hot, fast burning fire with large ash particles, whereas burning afterwards produces a hot, slow burning fire with smaller particles that can cause visibility issues and aggravate respiratory conditions.

The Clean Air Regulation establishes a general obligation for any person conducting a fire, including agricultural burning, to take all practicable measures to minimise or prevent air pollution. It does this by requiring persons intending to conduct agricultural burning to, for example, take into account the potential for smoke impacting on any person due to wind direction and weather conditions.

Regulatory authorities

Local Government

Local councils are responsible for environmental followup regarding cane burn smoke and ash fallout complaints.

Clarence Valley Council

Phone: (02) 6643 0200

 Richmond Valley Council

Phone: (02) 6660 0300

Tweed Shire Council

Phone: (02) 6670 2400


Cane Grower Associations

Clarence Valley
Pat Battersby
Clarence Cane Growers
Phone: (02) 6645 2515
Richmond Valley
Florence Dagan
Richmond Canegrowers
Phone: (02) 6683 4205
Tweed Valley
Doug Irby
Tweed Branch N.S.W. Canegrowers
Phone: (02) 6677 1386
Mobile: 0423 662 310
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