FEED availability, government support and forward thinking were key topics discussed by Australian Army Major-General Stephen Day when he visited Mullaley this morning.
The visit was part of his duties as the federal government’s coordinator general and saw locals have their say on issues relating to the drought.
Major-General Day identified listening to locals as key to the federal government’s overall drought plan.
“As the coordinator of the drought relief effort, it is crucial for me to get out on the ground and listen to those that it’s affecting,” Major-General Day said.
“From there, I can take the information I have gathered back to Canberra to the powers that be for action.
“My plan as coordinator of drought is in three parts: the first step is to listen and today’s meeting is a big part of that; two is to plan based on the information gathered from those on the ground; and three is to act.”
Organised by rural charity Aussie Helpers, the meeting allowed locals from a variety of backgrounds to give the Major-General an insight into the burning issues facing the region.
Tambar Springs farmer James Chappell spoke at the meeting about the short supply of fodder throughout the region.
“It is really becoming difficult to source stock feed of any description,” Mr Chappell said.
“There is a variety of factors contributing to this drought and, while most farmers are resilient and have a long-term plan in place, fodder is becoming scarce right across the board.”
The drought listening tour is set to continue throughout the region, with the Major-General’s next meetings in Tamworth on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.
“It’s important to better understand how the federal government can help,” Major-General Day said.
“Given these conditions are so widespread and affects so many people from all walks of life, it’s crucial to get honest feedback so that we can implement actions that will go towards helping those affected.”
The resilience of farmers was passionately raised several times throughout the meeting.
“It’s because of the farming community that we as a nation have an outstanding reputation overseas and some of the best food of the world,” Major-General Day said.
“I think that is the image perceived across the country and it certainly is in my eyes.”
The 35-year army veteran said it was important for the federal government to be looking to plan ahead for future droughts.
“To me it seems as though this issue is in two parts,” he said.
“There is of course the pressing issue of how to help during this drought, but I think there is also a need to be prepared for future droughts.
“We want there to be a future in agriculture in this country, and that’s why it is so important to have some coordination and coherence when dealing with this issue.”
Major-General Day said the information would be passed along to the Prime Minister.