Rotary International distributes more than $2 million in drought assistance across the Mid North Coast

HARDSHIP: The drought is continuing to affect farmers across New South Wales and Rotary wants people to lend a hand.
HARDSHIP: The drought is continuing to affect farmers across New South Wales and Rotary wants people to lend a hand.

Rotary International has been on the frontline of drought assistance distributing more than $2 million to farmers between Gloucester and Coffs Harbour and west to Coonamble and Lightning Ridge.

One of the key organisers for the financial assistance campaign has been Wauchope Rotary's Reg Pierce.

Mr Pierce said despite the recent rain across the state, farmers on the Mid North Coast won't see the rewards for many months.

He said the bushfires have also hindered efforts for farmers to source hay.

"The needs of our farmers are huge and they will require our assistance for at least another 12 to 18 months, as in most cases, they will have no income until then," Mr Pierce said.

"I have set up two Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS) projects, one is specifically for the procurement and payment of hay which continues to be a major financial issue for our farmers.

"Through this project, we have already delivered three B-doubles of hay to Hastings and Manning dairy farmers.

"Another flat-top truck of hay has been paid for and awaits transporting down. We have sufficient money to purchase another three B-doubles of hay, but sourcing it is a bit of a problem.

"The area we got the original loads from in Victoria was burned out.

"As can be imagined, the cost of hay has skyrocketed and is something that we are trying to work around."

He said the drought's impact and intensity has been significant.

"I think in all honesty, the job has been bigger than anyone could ever imagine," he said.

"According to RAWCS national treasurer, Mike Whitehouse, our initial distribution of $1.8 million of the $50 million allocated to Rotary, is the largest operation of its kind ever undertaken by Rotary Australia.

"Then of course on top came the organisation of the distribution of hay and water. While it has been a mammoth task, it has been one filled with unbelievable reward.

"But the human face to these hard times is not witnessed by the general public. There have been 28 suicides in our region and I've spent over an hour talking one woman out of taking that final step.

"I have listened to a farmer who not only lost his entire stock and income, but also his wife to breast cancer.

"Or the man who rang from his local supermarket, a place he was unable to visit for three years, and who after a big spend-up, lashed out on a tub of ice-cream and a six pack of beer.

"We still have a long way to go and I hope that people continue supporting our plight to help those living on the land,"

LIFELINE: Hastings dairy farmer Bob Baker and Wauchope Rotary's Reg Pierce with some donated hay. PHOTO: Laura Telford.

LIFELINE: Hastings dairy farmer Bob Baker and Wauchope Rotary's Reg Pierce with some donated hay. PHOTO: Laura Telford.

Mr Pierce said those who have been assisting, and who are still in a position to help, have ensured farmers who need it most have been able to connect with services.

"For me to realise that I was in a position to bring about not only practical relief, but also hope and dignity, has had a profound impact on me.

"I gravitate between extreme pride and humility. Pride to realise that with my club and other collaborative assistance partnerships, I have been able to bring genuine and practical relief and assistance to so many in dire need.

"Humility because I wonder at how it was all possible and how it all came about and also a bit of 'Why me Lord?'.

"One of the few Rotary sayings I can relate to is Rotary "gives ordinary people the opportunity to do extraordinary things" and together we have been able to make a difference."