Loads of help on the way for dry farms
MORE than 1250 bales of hay are on their way to drought-stricken properties in NSW as Tasmanian farmers, businesses and transport companies chip in to help those struggling to keep stock alive.
The first loads of hay - collected from Tasmanian farmers as far south as Cygnet, west to Marrawah and east to Scotsdale - left the state on Friday night and shipping will continue over the next three weeks at least.
Grain importer Robbie Edwards, of Cowbiz Stockfeed, started the hay bale project which is one of several across Tasmania.
The Somerset-based businessman hoped to transport half a dozen loads, about 200 bales, to NSW farmers in need, but has been inundated with donations and support.
Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff on Saturday announced TT-Line would allow trucks carrying hay to travel on the Spirit of Tasmania for free from Devonport to Melbourne.
TasPorts - with GeelongPort - are also waiving wharfage charges associated with transporting the cargo from Devonport to Geelong.
"One of the reasons our farmers are putting their hands up to help is due to the generosity they have received from fellow farmers in their hour of need," Mr Rockliff said.
"It is also important to remember our farmers in the South-East and on the East Coast of Tasmania are also experiencing challenging dry conditions and if there is no significant rain between now and summer they too will need help."
Latrobe farmer Michael Perkins, who is helping co-ordinate the collection and transport of the hay, knows first-hand how tough life on the land can be.
He lost herds of cattle in 2016 as devastating floods washed away livestock and farming infrastructure.
Mr Perkins said the waiving of fares on the Bass Strait ferries would free up 50 per cent of the money donated to be used in other ways.
"We are getting calls for help from the mainland. It really is a heartbreaking thing," he said.
"We will keep collecting and shipping as long as the bales of hay keep rolling in. As of this morning we have collected about 40 semi-trailer loads from about 70 donors."
It was also announced on Saturday that the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator will waiver access fees for trucks operating to and from drought-hit properties.
The Drought Relief Access Permit scheme, which begins tomorrow, will save truck operators $73 per permit.
The Federal Government has also extended the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme to include northbound donated fodder.
Tasmanian pubs have also got on board the Parma for a Farmer campaign, where $1 from every parma sold goes to the fundraising effort and Hill St Grocers are donating profits from fresh food sales.
Anyone interested in donating money to help transport the hay can deposit directly into the Cowbiz Tassie Hay Run account, BSB 017 500, Account number 417181409. To donate hay, contact Mr Perkins on 0417 592 992.