Author: Kate Cowling , Tim Fookes and Joanna Woodburn
Date: 17th August, 2018
A convoy of trucks has rolled into the regional NSW town of Condobolin to deliver hay to more than 200 drought-affected farmers.The 23 trucks, driven by volunteers, traveled from WA after hearing pleas of desperate farmers, many of whom have had to de-stock completely.
It follows last week's declaration that 100% of NSW is in drought.
The road trains have been moving across the Nullarbor since Monday, with 1,200 tonnes (2,300 bales) of hay, and arrived on Friday morning.
Bales were handed out to farmers from the Condobolin, Tullamore, Tottenham, Nymagee and Lake Cargelligo areas.
Some wiped back tears as they saw the trucks arrive in Condobolin.
The charity organisation behind the project, the Rapid Relief Team, said it had taken about two weeks to round up the hay and volunteers after people in the west heard about how bad the situation was.
Spokesman Mick Wilson said after the organisation collected $600,000, it was "like a military operation".
'Not just a farmer problem'
Farmer Fiona Aveyard, who received 10 bales of hay, said discovering she was one of the farmers getting donated hay "brought a tear to her eye".
"I never would have asked," she said. "I don't know why, because I shouldn't be embarrassed, but you always think there are people with greater need."
Like many farmers, the drought has forced Ms Aveyard to de-stock, and she said the allocation of donated hay would only last a few weeks.
"All of saleable stock is gone. We're down to core breeding stock," she said.
In spite of that, she said she had not lost her optimism.
"Drought is not just a farmer problem, it's a community problem, and to see the community helping, the Government helping and the farmers helping themselves, that's the way we're going to solve this," she said.
Stark contrast in conditions
Volunteer truck driver Peter Jewell, one of the 23 drivers who travelled from Western Australia to make the delivery, said he had been surprised by the difference in conditions as the convoy drove east.
"When we were driving over here, you could slowly see it getting drier and drier. It's not good at all," he said.
Mr Jewell said the response in small towns had been universally positive, with many people holding signs and clapping as the road trains moved through.
He said he would come back again if there were calls for more hay deliveries.
Mr Wilson said it had not taken long to secure the donated hay.
"It's the Australian tradition of care and compassion and helping your mates when they're in need," he said.
NSW deputy premier John Barilaro praised the efforts of volunteers and communities, but said today's conditions reflected the need for better planning.
"Three years ago we were dealing with floods, now we're dealing with drought," he said.
"Now is the right time to be having conversations about what's next."