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Drought relief turned into fire relief

Mudgee

A story from Mudgee in NSW, reflecting life in September 2020

“We just rounded up a couple bales of hay to support a couple of local farmers and it sort of escalated from there into what quickly became a two-year project,” explained Glenn Box, founder of 200Bales.

Glenn and some friends started the 200Bales initiative in 2018 in the Mid-Western Region of NSW. The aim was to donate 200 bales of hay to famers who were doing it tough in the drought.

“I have a travel agency in town and some really good friends are farmers and you could see the struggle unfolding….I thought maybe there is something we could do about it so I put out a post on Facebook to round up a couple of bales with a few friends and chuck in some money and within a few hours we had got together a few thousand bucks,” said Glenn.

“We decided maybe we can get 200 bales out of this program and make a difference.”

Glenn and his friends then organized fundraising drives through the Mudgee Lions Club, volunteers would help deliver the bales throughout the region by ute, small truck and trailer. Soon they were able to get large semi-trailers to deliver the bales.

Two years on, they have donated 3300 bales of hay at a cost of $600,000.

Then the bushfires hit.

“When it unfolded over the Christmas period, we had some feed supply that hadn’t been distributed to drought relief. So, a few quick messages to the core people and volunteers saying we have some burnt out country and we need to get some hay down there,” said Glenn.

“So, we sent down a semi-trailer down that morning to the Ilford fire shed.”

“We took down 62 bales and then another 70 – it’s not a huge number compared to what we did do but still at $200 a bale it is a nice little push along ($26,000). The grant from the Council was the equivalent of our first 60 bales, so it was great to get that.”

To help the most severely bushfire-impacted Local Government Areas (LGAs) to quickly rebuild vital infrastructure and strengthen community resilience following the bushfires, the Australian Government provided payments to local councils under the LGA Grants Program. Mid-Western Regional Council received $1.275 million under this program.

The Mid-Western Regional Council spent some of the funding on the 200Bales initiative.

“Many of our directly impacted properties use their land for primary production and this land was heavily impacted by the fires which took with it what little feed was available on the ground following years of drought and some properties lost their hay sheds in the fires,” said Alayna Gleeson, Mid-Western Regional Council Bushfire Liaison Officer.

“Given the amount of stock losses experienced in our region, it was important to ensure what survived had access to feed and to support local farmers who were already living with drought and then had to go through bushfire as well.”

Glenn wound up the initiative at the end of June this year. He said the region has recovered well from the drought and the demand for feed has slowed down.

“However, we still have a bit of supply that we could use if all of a sudden a property is burnt out by a bushfire next season. We can get in and get some feed to them the next morning if we had to,” said Glenn.