A CALL has gone out for volunteers and donations to help rebuild nearly 3000km of fencing destroyed in the devastating grassfires in Victoria’s south west.
Agriculture Victoria’s latest figures indicate 1434km of external boundary fencing and 1450km of internal fencing was destroyed in the four fires that tore through about 300 farm properties in the region.
Charity group BlazeAid has established basecamps in Macarthur, Terang and Cobden to begin the monumental task of replacing the lost fencing, a job that is expected to take up to six months.
BlazeAid president Kevin Butler, a Kilmore sheep farmer, said offers had been flowing in since news of the fires hit, but the organisation desperately needed $1 million for its Post and Wire program to fund fencing supplies.
The money will be designated toward fencing supplies vouchers and distributed to farmers in need to redeem at local farm supplies outlets in preparation for the arrival of BlazeAid volunteers.
“We’ve got dairy farmers ringing in tears. They’ve had zero ability to put money away for this type of thing for two years and anything they can get can make a huge difference,” Mr Butler said.
Kubota has provided BlazeAid with two front-end loaders valued at $80,000 for the south west recovery effort but the group still needs money to buy two Munro drivers.
“When you go on to a farm that has been burnt out, the farmers are absolutely devastated. They don’t know where to begin,” Mr Butler said.
“It’s always a bit emotional for them when a team of strangers pulls up in their driveway with their sleeves rolled up ready to go. It’s incredibly rewarding to be a part of that.”
Mr Butler started BlazeAid in the wake of the 2009 Black Saturday fires and it has since helped more than 4500 farmers rebuild their fencing after fires and floods.
It is hoped that 30-40 volunteers will be operating out of each of the three basecamps at any given time when BlazeAid hits full stride in coming weeks.
“If we can get 3-4 teams out a day from each location, it all starts to roll out very quickly and it’s great to watch the properties getting ticked off, one-by-one,” Mr Butler said.
Locals can help by:
■volunteering for fencing or other work (catering etc) by contacting basecamp coordinators on the numbers supplied at the end of this release;
■ donating money for the BlazeAid Post and Wire program, or donate money for volunteers’ food by calling 0418990172; or
■ lending spare post-hole drivers and other equipment by contacting basecamp co-ordinators.
Mr Butler said the volunteer cohort typically ranged in age from late teens to the 70s, with many camping at basecamp in tents, caravans and swags.
“It’s a great sense of camaraderie and you get to sit down and enjoy a feed and a drink and have a good chin wag at the end of the day,” he said.