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A state-wide fundraising effort by Surf Life Saving NSW culminated in a convoy of trucks arriving in the Upper Hunter yesterday to offload bales of hay to farmers doing it tough.

Individual members and whole clubs have contributed a little and in some cases, a lot. Members of North Palm Beach and Elouera Surf Life Saving Clubs and small clubs including Coledale in the Illawarra all answered the call for help. Woolgoolga SLSC on the North Coast threw down the gauntlet to other clubs to match their donation of a bale of hay and the response was fantastic.

“We want farmers and people in regional NSW to know that they are not alone,” said Surf Life Saving NSW President David Murray.

The arrival of the trucks on Monday was a sight for sore eyes for local farmers including David and his son John Wilson. They accepted the big haul on behalf of a number of property owners in the parched Upper Hunter near Aberdeen.

“The drought’s not a recent thing, it’s been the last two years and it’s had such a big effect on us, losing cattle to lack of feed and no water,” said John Walker. 

“A lot of people say you have a choice, but for me this is a lifestyle. I’m not a superhero or anything but I keep food in families’ mouths.

“From everyone here today, thank you. For the few people that Surf Life Saving has helped, it’s brought a lot of relief and a little bit of hope. “The Member for Upper Hunter Michael Johnsen also thanked all those who contributed to the Buy a Bale call to action.

“It’s a very, very difficult time. The key thing about this is that the community has come together. We really thank Surf Life Saving NSW and all of its members right around NSW who have pitched in to help us here in the Upper Hunter.

“The message we are receiving here from people who live on the coast is that farmers aren’t on their own,” said Michael Johnsen.

Despite living hours from the coast, Dixon Park SLSC surf lifesaver Kyle Smith travels to Newcastle to patrol almost every weekend and was more than happy to help unload the bales.

“It’s a bit hard to understand if you don’t live here, how tough it is for the farmers. Even for me, I live 15 minutes away and I’m talking to people about how they’re struggling. 

“It’s great that Newcastle clubs have chipped in to help these farmers out,” said Kyle.

Scone residents and members of Terrigal SLSC, the Figallo family, have all three of their children doing Nippers, despite the long trek to the coast every fortnight.

Hunter, Leila and Zoe love living in the country, but they also love the beach. Their mother Kristy says it’s important that the kids all learn how to be safe around water.

“We just wanted a good experience for our children so they can live in the country and still have the enjoyment of being at the beach, learning water safety and staying fit. 

“It’s dry and baron out here and very desperate. We only have a few animals but we really feel for the people who have livestock and depend upon it for their livelihood.”

With no relief from the drought in sight, Surf Life Saving NSW will continue to support country NSW where possible, and encourages other organisations to do the same.

Video soundtrack 'Harder to Find' by The Vanns


Tuesday 23 October 2018