Blaze Aid helping flooded West Australian farmers get back on their feet
Tara de Landgrafft, Mon 20 Mar 2017
As paddocks continue to dry out in southern Western Australia after February's massive floods, not-for-profit group Blaze Aid has mobilised to help farmers re-erect fences.
The organisation set up a camp at the Lake King football pavilion in WA's Great Southern last week and already has around 50km of fencing on the "to do" list.
Camp coordinator Judy Bland said fencing after fire is much different to fencing after flood.
"With a fire event, basically, as soon as the ground cools down, we can get volunteers out," she said.
"As soon as its safe to do so and stock that's been maimed or whatever in the fire or whatever, as soon as that is dealt with, we can get volunteers on the ground re fencing, but with the flood there's certainly been some challenges.
"A lot of the farms have been inaccessible and a lot of the roads have been inaccessible and cut as local people would know, there's bridges gone and roads flooded still so there is a lot of difference.
"We cant actually work on the ground sensibly until the mud and everything has dried up so that's one of the main differences, the time factor."
"Like with a fire we can probably get in within a week whereas its been now nearly five weeks since the floods and there are still quite a few farmers we are hearing from that just still can't access their country to assess what damage has been done," explained Mrs Bland.
She said while there has only been around a dozen farmers register for assistance so far, there is a mammoth of work to do.
"The number of farmers is not very impressive at this stage but there is around about the 50 kilometres of fencing which is fairly impressive," she said.
"It is several weeks job to erect a couple of kilometres of laneways, so 50-odd kilometres of fences and having to find them in the first place in a lot of cases, there's a fair bit of work ahead."
Mrs Bland, who is coordinating the camp with her husband Ed and hail from Bridgetown said they still have not ruled out setting up a camp at Ravensthorpe, further south, but will focus on Lake King and the Lake Grace shire for the time being.
Tougher than fencing after fire say volunteers
Blaze Aid volunteer Jim Mulligan agrees that cleaning up after a flood is hard work, but he said it was also very rewarding.
"This is my first time in flood recovery, all my other camps were just fires which I must say are considerably easier to clean up after," he said.
"The floods are something different and you don't want to see too many of them, not when you are having to pick fences back up.
"Basically you try and lift the fence back up and try and get all the stubble off it and hopefully get some posts back in and keep it upright if its salvageable.
"In a few cases we found the fence back out half way across the paddock and it has to be dragged back again and if its salvageable we'll stand it back up, put new posts in and its a good as new nearly."
But Mr Mulligan said despite giving his boots a fair work out, kicking stubble out of hundreds of metres of fencing each day, he's happy to lend a hand.
"I'm a retiree, you get the feel-good factor of coming down and helping people," he said.
"This is my fifth camp for Blaze Aid, unfortunately there is a disaster every year and I like to come down and do a few months if possible and then go on my merry way caravanning around the country."
Farmer grateful for assistance from volunteers
Rohan Mead who farms about 40km south of Lake King received over 300mm of rain on some parts of his property during the flood event.
He said having the Blaze Aid volunteers help put fences back up would allow him to return stock to parts of his property which were flooded in February's downpour.
"This stuff we've done today, with just us and the workman, probably would have taken a good week I reckon so to get it done in a day is quite handy," he said.
"Very impressed actually, very grateful of the hand they can give us which is much appreciated."
"I reckon they're doing a very good job and everyone should be [happy] with what they can do for us and yeah, I'd be happy to see them back again.
"It's good fun having someone different around and someone different to chat to, [it makes for a] bit of fun during the day."
© 2017 ABC