The message relayed to the Port Stephens community from our drought stricken farmers was as stark as it was poignant: “Please don’t forget about us.”
It was delivered by Rural Aid representatives Wayne and Robyn Thomson during the handover last Thursday of a cheque for $44,300, proceeds from a Buy a Bale fundraising weekend conducted by sporting and social clubs on the Tomaree peninsula.
“NSW is 100 per cent in drought and our farmers are still doing it very tough, many are working seven days a week, 12-14 hours a day, in what is being described as the worst drought on record,” Mr Thomson told the gathering.
“To put it in perspective, one year ago we were delivering one roadtrain (approximately 70 tonne) of hay a fortnight, now we are delivering 30 roadtrains a week.
“And each day we hear of the dreadful conditions, the misery these proud farmers are dealing with.
“Stories of 7-year-old children who have never seen rain, parents who can’t remember the last time they purchased fresh food from a store, families bathing in buckets of stinking bore water, kids counting the dead sheep on their farm before going off to school.
“Stories of families who haven’t had cause to turn on their fridge in months, eating from tins of food, farmers selling live stock for peanuts, the list goes on.”
Mr Thomson said every cent raised through the Buy a Bale project goes to families to purchase hay for stock, food, water and fuel.
“Of course farmers are very proud people and reluctant to ask for help, which is causing its own problems … quite often they come to us four months too late when they are in dire need.
“There are also the mental health issues. How do you plan for a seven-year continuous drought?”
Mr Thomson said the recent rains had very little impact on the vast majority of farmers. “The shoots of grass get eaten very quickly by cattle or sheep that are not too weak to move.”
There was some bright news on the horizon, said Mr Thomson. “Victorian hay stocks are on their way to NSW and Queensland to replace the current crop coming from Western Australia and South Australia.”
The Bay’s weekend of fundraising organiser Vicki Page, from Fingal Sports Club, said it was a sobering thought to get a first hand account of the real life effect the drought is having on farmers.
“The weekend showed what this community can do when the various clubs get together to support those in need, but obviously there is more to be done,” she said.
During the weekend of September 8-9 the Port’s three major golf clubs – Nelson Bay, Pacific Dunes and Horizons – attracted around 200 golfers and raised in excess of $15,000.
Bowlers were equally generous with their time and money, with hundreds turning out for events at Soldiers Point, Nelson Bay and Fingal Bay raising another $15,000, while Anna Bay Tavern held a two-day event which attracted visitors from across the state.
A Moonshadow cruise raised in excess of $1200 while Port Stephens councillors approved a $1000 donation to be made to the relief charity fund at its August 28 meeting.
Club representatives who participated included Bob Westbury (Horizons), Vicki Page and Dean Noble (Fingal Sports), Nicole Blue (Nelson Bay Bowls), Trevor Harrison (Nelson Bay Golf), Kurt Linda (Pacific Dunes) and Simon Lack (Soldiers Point Bowls).