As the rain fell in Gunnedah, thirty road trains and semi-trailers loaded with 1,000 tonnes of hay and hope arrived in the New England and Northwest areas to deliver relief to 200 more drought-stricken farmers and their families.
The hay was donated by the Rapid Relief Team (RRT), an initiative of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, which is staffed by Church volunteers who lend a helping hand to those in need.
As part of the larger RRT NSW drought relief campaign effort, with donations now in excess of $3 million, this half a million dollars’ worth of hay for the greater New England and Northwest areas was delivered via 18 road trains from Western Australia and a further 12 from Tasmania.
The RRT are also providing food coupons for 100 local farming families, totalling $1000 per family across 10 weeks, in the greater Gunnedah area.
Earlier in the month, the RRT facilitated 23 road trains worth of hay travelling from Western Australia, across the Nullarbor, to the greater Condobolin, NSW area, with additional hay deliveries to farmers in the greater Wollondilly, NSW area.
A spokesperson for the Rapid Relief Team, Michael Wilson, said the RRT is always looking for opportunities to provide gestures of compassion and support to those in need.
“This drought is affecting everyone right across NSW, and as a church-based organisation it is in our blood to rally together to support those who are doing it very tough,” said Mr Wilson.
“The NSW Government has declared “100 per cent” of the state is now in drought, with experts predicting it is the worst drought the state has experienced in 40 years.
“Let’s be clear – every single dollar raised as part of RRT’s Operation Drought Relief goes directly to the farmers.
“We genuinely hope our donation of hay and food coupons will make a difference in helping farming families in NSW to get back on their feet.
“We want them to know that mates stand with mates – and that they are not going through this crisis alone,” said Mr Wilson.
Federal Member for the Parkes electorate Mark Coulton has been working closely with farmers in his electorate, which consists of nearly half the state, and said the support of the Rapid Relief Team will provide a boost to the community.
“Initiatives like the Rapid Relief Team’s hay drive show that community spirit is alive and well, and I am pleased to see locals getting behind our farmers during this tough time,” Mr Coulton said.
“I would like to thank the Rapid Relief Team for their efforts and for welcoming me to be a part of this event.”
Local member, Kevin Anderson MP, was on hand to help receive the hay in Gunnedah on Friday morning.
“It’s humbling to see people from right across the country rally around our local community to support farmers in need.
“I want to thank the Rapid Relief Team for their generosity and kindness, with hay and food coupons going to farmers and their families right across the New England and North West regions,” said Mr Anderson.
As part of the RRT’s cross-country operation, Rio Tinto has donated 75 tonnes of hay from Western Australia, sourcing stock from a customer of its agriculture projects in the Pilbara to ensure the hay arrived in time for farmers in need.
Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said “The drought on the east coast is one of the worst in living memory and as a company with a long-standing commitment to regional Australia it is important to do our bit to help those in need.
“As land users in remote regions, we understand and appreciate the immense pressure brought about by drought. Together with the generous support of our local transport partner Matic Transport, teams across Rio Tinto have come together to enable this donation to help our east coast farmers.”
The RRT is deploying its volunteers and will host a free community BBQ to welcome the arrival of the hay on Friday 7 September from 7-9am and from 12pm-2pm, at AgQuip Site, 134 Black Jack Road, Gunnedah.
The RRT free community BBQ will continue on Saturday 8 September from 9.30am-1.30pm.
Every day in some small way, RRT volunteers offer a helping hand to those in need. For more information about the Rapid Relief Team, go to https://www.rapidreliefteam.org/