Delivering hope for farmers

Michelle Slater

ENGIE jumped aboard the spirit of Australia Day by helping out battling drought-affected Gippsland farmers with a donation of 150 bales of hay.

Six truck drivers collected the hay at Hazelwood after 340 bales were donated in December in partnership with Regional Roads Victoria and Fulton Hogan.

The hay run was organised by the Lions Club Need for Feed charity, in which a convoy of about 18 trucks and utes rolled down the Princes Highway to drop the feed off at district depots.

Hazelwood Rehabilitation Project communications manager Lauren Carey said the hay was cut as part of Hazelwood’s fire-preparedness measures in the lead up to and throughout the fire season.

“Clearing of vegetation in and around the mine is an important part of our annual fire-preparedness work with grassland managed through cattle grazing and hay baling,” Ms Carey said.

“Following an office discussion between several ENGIE Hazelwood personnel the concept to donate the bales suitable for fodder, came to life.”

Drivers who donated their time and trucks to the cause started at Longwarry, before they gathered for an Australia Day breakfast in Traralgon catered by the local Lions Club.

Need for Feed organiser Don Petty said truckies headed to Wellington and East Gippsland shires to disperse the fodder and bags of donated household toiletries to farming families.

“You can’t get any more Australian than helping out fellow Australians, especially farmers. People from the city are more than happy to help farmers,” Mr Petty said.

“It was heartening heading up the highway in a convoy and people gave a toot and a wave when they passed.”

Mr Petty said conditions across the shires had worsened in recent weeks since volunteers were in the area, and he compared Longford to a “dustbowl”.

“Farmers were really appreciative. It was really emotional. In some cases there were tears when they knew that people were thinking about them. This will help them out a little bit,” he said.

Mr Petty urged farmers to jump on board the Need for Feed website to register for a helping hand.

“There are many people in need who haven’t applied and we don’t know who they are,” he said.

“We’ve got more hay to bring – we will continue to go out there. This reminds people the drought is still going and people are in dire straits.”