Drought and Flood Agency’s David and Jess have been travelling through NSW making new friends and talking to people about how they and their communities have been dealing with the drought.
Like some other parts of the country, despite there being some good rain through the area, it’s clear the drought’s impact is far from over.
The trip began in Dubbo where the team caught up with our new Regional Recovery Officer for Central NSW, Tammy Greer. It was her first day on the job, and she was looking forward to getting out into the community.
From there the duo travelled to Tamworth to visit the ‘House that Drought Built’. Natalie and Daniel Urquhart, owners of G.J. Gardner Homes, Tamworth, came up with the concept after recognising the devastating impact the drought was having on their community. They partnered with Lampada Estate a McCloy Community, Tamworth Regional Council, PRDnationwide and the Salvation Army, to build the beautiful home, which is being auctioned on 25 July.
The nett proceeds of the sale, hoped to be in excess of $250,000, will go to The Salvation Army Drought Relief program and distributed to the most drought-affected families in the Tamworth region. Check out the House that Drought Built.
The team’s next visit was to Breck and Margot Johnston who run Glen Barra Station near Tamworth. Their 23,000 acres is usually home to 2,500 cattle, however the drought has forced them to reduce their herd to around 400. Hampered by drought and needing fresh business options, Breck and Margot turned to the Rural Financial Counselling Service for advice. They teamed up with Debby Maddox who works out of Armidale, and together they secured financing from the Regional Investment Corporation.
In Inverell they met local CWA legend Lynda Atkinson. Lynda was awarded the Delungra “Citizen of the Year and NSW Hidden Treasure” Award in 2019, for her tireless work coordinating the delivery of drought relief packages and community events.
They also visited Julie Bird who owns a Merino station north of Inverell. Julie has diversified her farming business by developing a range of fine merino wool sleepwear called Sleepy Merino.
Their last visit in Inverell was with Nicky Lavender, President of the Inverell Chamber of Commerce & Industry. The Chamber is a volunteer organisation and has around 185 members. Its role is to advocate for its members, foster networking between businesses and create promotions to generate spending in the community.
While travelling through the golden triangle in Northern NSW David and Jess stopped at Bingara, where they met with Gwydir Shire Council’s Deputy Mayor, Catherine Egan and Social Services Manager, Suzy Webber. Here they looked at some of the Shire’s newly-funded Drought Community Programme projects, including upgrades to the sports oval and a fantastic new swimming pool complex, with much of the work being carried out by local farmers and tradies.
At Narrandera they met with Brett Grant, Chairman of The Australian Mohair Marketing Organisation. Mohair is the fibre from Angora goats, and Brett explained how well it sells as an elite fibre compared to wool. They also talked about the ability to mix Angora goats with other types of livestock, and as goats will eat about anything, they are fantastic as weed control and can thrive through times of drought.
Along the way they picked up Regional Recovery Officer for South East NSW Chris Clarke and his trusty sidekick Tinker for a catch up with Belinda Anderson, CEO of the Henty Machinery Field Days, and with Melissa Neal, CEO of the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network (MPHN). Melissa spoke about some of the fantastic work the MPHN is doing in the region, including their ‘Tell it Well’ series which provides tips for improving health and wellbeing through the stories of people living in the region.
Their next stop was Temora, with a visit to Rodney and Michael Breust’s “Long view” property. Construction is about to start on their 700 acre solar farm, which will produce enough electricity to power 40,000 average homes. They also met with John Harper, a retired farmer and shearer who is a passionate advocate for mental health and founder of Mate Helping Mate, a podcast series featuring stories of farmers who share their experiences about living in remote and rural communities during tough times.
David and Jess also learned how the Temora Shire Council had used its 2019 Australian Government’s Drought Communities Programme (DCP) funding. General Manager Gary Lavelle explained their first round $1 million was used to complete some 80 local projects, including upgrades to many of the community halls in the Shire and the showgrounds. Most of the works were carried out by local tradies and farmers, from fixing fences to painting community spaces, and every cent went back into the community. Temora Shire is eligible for their second $1 million of DCP funding this financial year and we look forward to seeing what they do next!
It's now time to wash the car, find some clean clothes, and start planning the next trip.