With no decent rain for three years, farmers in western Queensland have struggled to make ends meet. Now many are selling up and moving out.
The 7:30 Report did a special segment on the effect of our devastating drought in Queensland, and in particular Longreach farmers.
In this segment David Lewis interviews a few local farmers including Carley & Nic Walker who have a farm just outside Longreach where they live with their beautiful children and have now made the hard decision to sell their farm after 3yrs of drought meant no income for the family to continue another year. Originally from Brisbane 8 years ago, Nic stated that they couldn’t go on any more.
Brian Egan of Aussie Helpers is in the interview with David the reporter, and Brian explains how Aussie Helpers helps these families out with their difficulties.
David also interviewed a few more farmers and the local accountant. You can click on either video image below to link to the video interview, and the full transcript of that interview is also below.
You can donate and support the Aussie Helpers in their fight to keep farmers on their land by DONATING HERE, Thank You.
ABOVE: Carley & Nic Walker (Longreach Farmers)
ABOVE: Brian Egan (Aussie Helpers Founder)
IMAGE ABOVE: Showing the 40 QLD Shires affected by drought in 2015
FULL Transcript of Report Below:
LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: The Easter long weekend coincided with a grim milestone in the bush: two years of a slow but crippling drought. The situation is most dire in Western Queensland; there hasn’t been a decent drop of rain for three years. The winter months are usually the driest, so there’s no reprieve in sight for those on the land. David Lewis reports from Longreach.
CARLEY WALKER, GRAZIER: I love that buzz in the morning when everyone’s mustering, everyone’s buzzing around on bikes, the kids are out and about in it as well, in the thick. I love that feeling of the activity.
DAVID LEWIS, REPORTER: It’s been a while since you’ve heard that activity, I assume?
CARLEY WALKER: It has been a while.
DAVID LEWIS: It’s strangely quiet at Nic and Carley Walker’s property south of Longreach in Queensland’s central-west. Normally there would be cattle and sheep to look after, but the long drought has forced the couple to completely de-stock.
CARLEY WALKER: We were loath to sell them, but it was a financial decision and a humane decision.
NIC WALKER, GRAZIER: I think we definitely minimised how much – minimised the losses that we could have had by selling as early as we possibly could.
DAVID LEWIS: Three consecutive failed wet seasons had left the animals with little to eat.
CARLEY WALKER: Daily life is a lot of death and a lot of killing and a lot of suffering. So you’re driving around twice a day just putting things out of their misery and it takes a huge toll on especially Nick or whoever’s going out and doing that. You’ve constantly got blood on your shoes and smell like sheep blood and like stinky, rancid mud.
DAVID LEWIS: The Walkers moved here from Brisbane eight years ago and love the country lifestyle, but it could be years before they recover from these hard times, so they’ve decided to put their property on the market.
NIC WALKER: Everyone expects to go through droughts, but this one seems to have been particularly harsh and I guess everyone’s also just saying, “Well, we’ll get through to next wet season and then we’ll be right again,” but we’ve been saying that for three years now. If next year’s dry, who knows what’ll happen?
GEORGE GOWING, GRAZIER: I came here in 1974 to Glenaris and this is the first time that I’ve ever had completely 30,000 acres de-stocked.
DAVID LEWIS: What percentage, do you reckon, of property owners in the region would have de-stocked?
GEORGE GOWING: Oh, I couldn’t tell you exactly, but, by Jove, I mean, well, 100 per cent of people would have cut their numbers back dramatically. I mean, yeah, yeah – within the next couple of months there’ll be hardly any stock left in the central-west, I think.
DAVID LEWIS: In the past year, George Gowing’s property Glenaris has had just three inches of rain. The grass cover his cattle and sheep would normally eat has dried up and hungry kangaroos are claiming the leftovers.
GEORGE GOWING: In a normal season, they never touch these bushes, never touch them.
DAVID LEWIS: So things must be getting pretty desperate if they’re stripping bark off this?
GEORGE GOWING: You’re dead right. I wouldn’t like to be eating bark off one of these bushes, but ‘roos are very adaptable and that’s what they’re doing.
DAVID LEWIS: Most of his animals have either been sold or moved to greener pastures. Others have simply perished.
GEORGE GOWING: You think you’re the only one that’s in trouble, but the whole central-west – I mean, it doesn’t matter what business you’re in, you’re definitely suffering, you’re starting to do it hard, yeah.
DAVID LEWIS: There’s been no activity here at the Longreach saleyards for almost a year. Graziers and buyers have been told sales won’t resume until conditions improve. But with so many properties in the region significantly de-stocked, there’s not much left to sell anyway.
As graziers tighten their belts, businesses in town are also feeling the pinch.
BILL RINGROSE, ACCOUNTANT: Well we just see that there’s so few people around now, David. There’s – the shops are quiet, the parking – this parking in the street, often very full place to park. And so the whole place is just in a depressed state.
DAVID LEWIS: Accountant Bill Ringrose advises many shop owners on this strip and throughout the region. He believes the drought poses an existential threat to smaller communities outside Longreach.
BILL RINGROSE: I think we could see easily a huge economic collapse in all of western Queensland, western NSW for that matter. When things start spiralling downwards, they can easily get out of control. We lose the whole sense of community, communities will collapse, little towns will suffer and will probably die.
DAVID LEWIS: Across Queensland, more than 40 local government shires are in drought. This Easter, 10 of those shires marked two years since their official drought declaration.
The charity organisation Aussie Helpers has been travelling to the worst-hit areas giving away donated liquid stock feed and hay.
So Brian, whereabouts is this hay going?
BRIAN EGAN, AUSSIE HELPERS: This lot here, mate, it’s going to go over to a place down at Ilfracombe. A lady just rang up and they’re pretty desperate and they won’t be able to wait till we get down there next week with Ilfracombe’s hay, so we’ll just make a special trip down there and – um, well, I mean, when they ring you up crying, mate, you just sort of feel, I don’t know, a little bit guilty about it because we’ve got the stuff here and they can’t get here to get it, so we take it to them.
DAVID LEWIS: What difference will these resources make to their lives?
BRIAN EGAN: Well, unfortunately, not a great deal, but we can’t make it rain, David, but we can give people hope.
WOMAN: We are desperate. We are desperate. We can’t do without it.
FARMER: This feed will help us keep our stock alive in the yard, to keep them so we can move them on to agistment or whether to sell them or not.
BRIAN EGAN: We just don’t want to lose any more people out here. It’s so important because once all this expertise goes from these country places, these farmers, and they’re multi-skilled people, probably the most multi-skilled people on Earth and we don’t want to lose that expertise. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
DAVID LEWIS: Nic and Carley Walker don’t want to leave, but they’ve crunched the numbers and say they can’t afford to hold on any longer.
NIC WALKER: So it’ll be 12 months before we can – before we get any more rain and can restock and another 12 months before we start to realise any profits from that restocking, so, it’s just too long for us to wait. I feel we need to go and make some money elsewhere.
LEIGH SALES: David Lewis reporting from Longreach.