Joined by the Deputy Premier and Minister for Disaster Recovery John Barilaro, the Rapid Relief Team (RRT) has delivered hope and a helping hand to 297 drought-affected farmers in the Bourke and Walgett regions, as part of Operation Drought Relief (ODR).
The RRT ODR Farmers Community Connect events, yesterday in Bourke and today in Walgett, were designed to be feel-good, well-deserved days out for local farmers, who have been doing it tough as a result of prolonged drought that has seen the loss of livestock and significantly impacted livelihoods.
The RRT have committed to donating 1600 tonnes of livestock to drought affected Aussie farmers throughout 2020.
With the help of volunteers from the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church (PBCC), RRT was able to deliver 374 tonnes of livestock pellets over the two days.
Both events were modified in line with the advice from NSW Health around public gatherings, with RRT volunteers serving drive-through burgers to farmers in their cars.
Ron Arkcoll, RRT Managing Director from the PBCC said Christian values of care and compassion motivated them to help farmers across drought-stricken NSW and Queensland.
“Today’s Farmers Community Connect is about bringing together both farmers and the community to have a bite to eat, a chat with mates and support each other through some tough times, even though it was through the car window this time!” Mr. Arkcoll said.
“And particularly with some of the panic around coronavirus, it’s important to remind people to stay calm and help each other out when they need it.
“It was also an honour to have the Deputy Premier John Barilaro out in Walgett, and we thank the NSW Government for their ongoing support.
“Our journey across the state to deliver feed for livestock and support for farmers and their families has been a humble one, and a real eye-opener to the goodness found in the power of community.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro thanked RRT for their on the ground support for farmers in regional NSW throughout the drought and bushfire season.
“The recent rainfall in the Bourke and Walgett area has been a relief for many farmers, but sadly the drought is far from over,” Mr. Barilaro said.
“As Minister for Regional NSW I will continue to fight for our regions and support the work of organisations like RRT who have helped keep our communities united through this enduring drought.”
Walgett grazier Nick Fletcher said, “it is looking a lot better that it was six weeks ago, but people need to understand that it doesn’t rain money, it rains expenses.”
“Now that we’ve got a bit of moisture in the ground, we’re now walking a bit of a tight rope now with our banks to see if we’re already at our limits with overdrafts and what not.
“We’ve still got a crop to put in this year and hopefully we can get the money to get it in the ground and grow as much as we need to.
“Most farmers, they’re not going to have any income into December.
“Under the current circumstances with Coronavirus, there is talks of the sale yard shutting down, and if we can’t sell our stock then there’s another compounded issue there.
“Coming to an event like this – it’s one of those things that just makes you realise that people don’t forget where you are and who you are.
“I’m just grateful that we’ve had the opportunity to get a bit of extra feed for our stock who are suffering somewhat at the moment.
“It’s good to come out and see smiling faces today, and hopefully we’re on the up and up now.”
Bourke Shire Mayor, Barry Hollman, said, “I would like to thank the RRT and congratulate you all for the huge effort you’ve got here today, it’s a wonderful scene to see!”
“The farmers are coming in and I can see a smile on all their faces. I can appreciate what you’ve done and I’m sure all my community appreciates what you’re doing for our town. It’s a wonderful thing to do.”
Over the past 18 months, RRT’s Operation Drought Relief has seen 12,525 bales of hay and some 2,042.5 tonnes of livestock pellets, delivered to 10+ locations across NSW and Queensland, helping thousands of farmers and their families in need.