Farmers Across Borders completes first Carnarvon run

Shannon VerhagenCountryman
Truck drivers Ross Stone, Greg Fisher, Roley Pearce and Rocket Harris. Truckloads of donated hay arrive at GLW Freight in Kewdale destined for drought affected pastoralists inland of Carnarvon. Photo : Stewart Allen.
Camera IconTruck drivers Ross Stone, Greg Fisher, Roley Pearce and Rocket Harris. Truckloads of donated hay arrive at GLW Freight in Kewdale destined for drought affected pastoralists inland of Carnarvon. Photo : Stewart Allen. Credit: Pictures: Stewart Allen

From ongoing drought to once-in-a-decade floods, Carnarvon pastoralists have battled weather extremes on both ends of the spectrum this year.

After years of drought — with some areas recording just 64mm in four years — some pastoralists have been locked in by floodwaters, unable to leave until it recedes.

So when four truckloads of donated hay and straw arrived on their doorsteps on Monday morning, the meaningful gesture stirred many emotions.

The 3000km round trip was part of Esperance-based charity Farmers Across Borders’ hay run this year, with four trucks leaving Esperance on Saturday bound for four pastoral stations north and east of Carnarvon.

Truck drivers Ross Stone stands by a truckloads of hay bound for drought-affected pastoralists inland from Carnarvon.
Camera IconTruck drivers Ross Stone stands by a truckloads of hay bound for drought-affected pastoralists inland from Carnarvon. Credit: Stewart Allen/Stewart Allen

It has been a dry few years for Carnarvon pastoralists, who have not only battled drought, but wild horses and dogs. And while rain from February’s 200mm deluge was welcomed, some are now also counting the cost of flood damage.

The region’s damage bill is estimated to be in the millions of dollars, with the torrent tearing roads apart — including a 10km stretch of North West Coastal Highway — and fencing, while churning up paddocks and farm access roads.

Truckloads of donated hay arrive at GLW Freight in Kewdale destined for drought affected pastoralists inland of Carnarvon. Photo : Stewart Allen.
Camera IconTruckloads of donated hay arrive at GLW Freight in Kewdale destined for drought affected pastoralists inland of Carnarvon. Photo : Stewart Allen.

It is an issue close to home for many of those involved in the run, who donated time and hay despite facing drought themselves.

President and Salmon Gums farmer Sam Starcevich said three trucks travelled about 300km north of Carnarvon, with one truck turning off at Geraldton to head inland to pastoralists, who welcomed them with open arms.

“It’s been great,” Mrs Starcevich said. “They’ve been so appreciative and we didn’t want to leave.”

Some of the fodder was destined for a station a further 150km north which will be collected by the pastoralists, while Mia Mia Station’s Jim and Lorraine Dorrell will also hold on to some bales for a nearby station that’s still cut off.

The drop followed the charity’s Valentine’s Day Love Run earlier this month when 15 trucks travelled to 31 stations in the drought-stricken Goldfields, Murchison and Gascoyne regions.

Truck drivers Ross Stone, Greg Fisher, Roley Pearce and Rocket Harris. Truckloads of donated hay arrive at GLW Freight in Kewdale destined for drought affected pastoralists inland of Carnarvon. Photo : Stewart Allen.
Camera IconTruck drivers Ross Stone, Greg Fisher, Roley Pearce and Rocket Harris. Truckloads of donated hay arrive at GLW Freight in Kewdale destined for drought affected pastoralists inland of Carnarvon. Photo : Stewart Allen. Credit: Picture: Stewart Allen

It is the first time they have dropped the fodder to Carnarvon, making it their biggest run yet, spanning more than 1200km both north-south and east-west.

Wydgee Station owner Eric Moses said the three trailer-loads of hay and straw dropped at his Payne’s Find property could keep his goats going for almost six months and save him thousands of dollars.

“It’s just fantastic support,” he said. “It’s financial support. Because it’s not just the hay, it’s the transport. It would cost me $3500 to get a semitrailer from Perth.”

Some battled to get even 30mm of rain last year.

Over the past five years, thousands of tonnes have been donated to pastoralists as part of the Farmers Across Borders charity run, with Sunday’s Valentines Day “Love Run” delivering 1280 bales of hay and straw to 31 stations.

Local families got up early to see them off, with kids wrapped in dressing gowns and wearing slippers as they excitedly waved by the roadside.

And the encouragement came from inside the cab too, with passing motorists jumping on the two-way to wish them well.

“Good onya guys — you’re doing a great job,” one said. “Really appreciate what you do. Have a safe trip.”

The convoy — which this year has 15 trucks but at its biggest had almost 50 — has become an icon of the region and symbolic of the Aussie spirit threaded throughout WA’s regional communities.

“It’s something we can do to let them know they’re not alone and that we’re thinking of them,” secretary Christiane Smith said.

Behind the wheel were truck drivers from Esperance and Cunderdin to Wandering and Perth, dropping the golden fodder to stations from Leonora to as far up as Kumarina, about 300km north of Meekatharra.

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