Loss of feed forces destock

Claire TyrrellCountryman

The family of Cooralya station face an uncertain future after the Gascoyne fires destroyed almost everything they worked to build.

Miranda Williamson, her partner Warren Schmidt and their children Riley, Claire and Rachael lease more than 250,000 hectares north of Carnarvon.

The fires claimed more than 90 per cent of the family's 155,000-hectare station, Cooralya.

"We will have to shut down Cooralya," Miranda said.

"We don't have much longer up our sleeve. There is no green feed for our cattle."

Miranda said the family would offload their herd of 1500 Brahman-cross cattle by the end of the month.

"It has taken us seven years to get to the breeding quality we were aiming for," she said.

"We have worked so hard only to realise fire can take it all away."

The fire originated 100km south-east of Cooralya on Mooka station on December 27.

It spread to Cooralya in early January, after lightning strikes and wind intensified the blaze.

The family were evacuated from Cooralya on Monday, January 8, as the flames threatened the homestead.

The homestead was saved but the family returned to see most of their grazing country blackened.

Miranda was surprised at the speed of the fire and disappointed she was not warned of it earlier.

"It had already burnt half of our country and we didn't even know it was there," she said. "We kept checking for updates, but we weren't told anything until late Sunday night (when it came onto our property)."

Cooralya incurred no stock losses from the fire, and the family is still assessing damage to fencing.

Miranda and Warren also lease Boologooro, 30km east of Cooralya. The fire burnt about 5 per cent of Boologooro and threatened the family's 3000 sheep.

"A handful of sheep got caught in the fire and we lost about 20," Miranda said.

"We were very lucky because just before the fires took us, we trapped all the sheep out of that country."

Fires were contained on both stations by mid January.

Miranda said the experience was heartbreaking.

"Prior to the fires, we were in such a good place," she said. "We had waited three of four years to get that feed. We took a big risk to set up the life we wanted and it can be taken away so quickly without warning."

Miranda said her partner might have to look at outside employment, such as the mines, to keep up with station repayments.

She said she did not expect financial assistance from the Government, but endorsed a shift in government policy regarding fires.

"If the Government could make incentives to have fires nipped in the bud, it might make a difference," she said.

Close to 20mm of rain fell on Cooralya after the fires, which Miranda said started to reshoot some vegetation.

"Since the fire we've had 22.7mm," she said. "There are green shoots but I think they are onion grass and wind grass, so while it seems good and looks green it doesn't go anywhere.

"It does give us hope that something will grow back."

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