Hope among the ashes

Glenn CordingleyThe West Australian
Nikki and Kurt Elezovich, both 40, and their boys Rory, 2, William, 5, still manage a smile.
Camera IconNikki and Kurt Elezovich, both 40, and their boys Rory, 2, William, 5, still manage a smile. Credit: The West Australian

A Kimberley pastoralist refuses to be beaten after a bushfire destroyed more than 90 per cent of his grazing land.

Kurt Elezovich and his wife Nikki, both 40, were left devastated in August when a wall of flames pushed by relentless easterly winds roared through Country Downs, about 100km north of Broome.

Their homestead was spared but the food for their 3500 head of cattle was reduced to ashes.

Shire of Broome councillors and senior staff visited the Elezovich family at their station last Wednesday while en route to a council meeting at One Arm Point on the Dampier Peninsula.

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Mr Elezovich said he was determined to battle on so he could one day pass his legacy and love of the land onto his children, Rory, 2, and William, 5.

"It is a damn struggle, but I constantly remind myself why I'm out here," he said.

"I was raised in this industry and it's what I believe in and a life of love. And I do it with the hope I can pass my love of the land and my animals to my kids.

"It's by no means a financial thing that we are out here.

"God knows you wouldn't be (here) if it was because it's a hard bastard of a job.

"But to be able to grow our own vegetables and raise our own animals … it's really fulfilling on a personal level."

In another cruel blow, Mr Elezovich has only managed to truck out 600 head of cattle so far because the property where he intended to agist most of the animals, about 400km away, has also been ravaged by fire.

He is now buying in food rations and has a drilling contractor on site sinking a number of bores to relieve pressure on a number of existing watering points.

Selling his cattle was only an option if the herd fell within certain categories to meet live export specifications, otherwise the return would be "very little".

"We have got to be careful we don't sell the future of the business, because we still intend to be here next year and we will need an income stream next year," Mr Elezovich said.

The cattle farmer likened his dilemma to a game of "Russian roulette".

"The longer it goes before rain, the harder it will be and the older, weaker animals are the ones that suffer.

"If you have got animals producing milk and they can't meet their daily intake then they start to shrink in size.

"It's a very tough time for us, mate."

Despite the adversity, the Elezovichs are remaining positive and can still manage to smile.

"There was one day about three days after the fire that I made the comment 'if someone offered me the dough for this place I would walk away today'," Mr Elezovich said.

"By the time the sun had gone down and the fire had backed off I had calmed down and I was back to my optimistic self again."

And his optimism has been rewarded with recent heavy fogs helping grass to regrow.

"It is by no means where it should be but there is a survival ration there," Mr Elezovich said.

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