Wednesday , October 16 2019
Home / Environment / ‘We’re not looking for sympathy’: Drought means more work, more danger

‘We’re not looking for sympathy’: Drought means more work, more danger

Pat’s great-grandfather and grandfather planted 400 Kurrajong trees – the leaves of which provide nutritious feed for cattle – to prepare for droughts.

Pat and his family backed that up by laying pipelines from the property’s bore to each of its paddocks and by increasing the size of its dams.

Even so, three years into the drought the family has reduced their herd by around 70 per cent because they no longer have the resources to sustain 400 head of cattle.

“We’re running out of trees, we’re running out of feed and we’re running out of cattle. If it doesn’t rain soon we won’t be able to keep our business alive,” Pat said.

Elly Byriell of Breeza Plains, also in the Liverpool Plains, said her family had sold off all their cattle as of last week, including their studs, wasting generations of selective breeding.

“Usually you would never sell your good breeders,” the 17-year-old said. “You’ve worked years for those genetics. But you have to. It’s very sad.”

We’re running out of trees, we’re running out of feed and we’re running out of cattle

Pat Blomfield

The high school students, who are members of the steering committee for UNICEF’s NSW Youth Drought Summit, opened the three-day conference in Lake Macquarie on Wednesday, saying they were excited to discuss solutions to the problems drought-affected communities are facing.

The pair helped organise the summit, which has brought together 100 young people between the ages of 14-24 from across the state.

“We’re not looking for sympathy,” Pat said. “We’re looking for better solutions.”

UNICEF, the United Nation’s children’s fund, is hosting the conference in Gwandalan after a study by the charity found young people living on drought-stricken properties in NSW were experiencing “escalating levels of stress” due to financial pressure at home and a greater workload split between their families’ farms and school.

The report noted the value of young people’s first-hand knowledge of drought for policy makers.

“This is not the first drought, thought it is a nasty one,” said UNICEF Australia chair Ann Sherry at the summit’s opening. “But we feel unprepared each time. I think now is the time for us to stop and think about it. How do we get better prepared for the future because this won’t be our last drought.”

The Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth, and Women Bronwyn Taylor attended the opening on behalf of the premier. She said the state government was “really keen” to hear the recommendations of the summit to be released on Friday.

“There’s plenty of hope, and there’s plenty of opportunities and plenty of solutions to be found,” she said.

Ms Taylor reiterated the state government had spent “close to two-billion dollars” on drought relief, but said she believed the best solutions came from a grassroots level.

“We can sit in parliament and make decisions and do all those sorts of things but the most powerful things come from communities themselves,” she said.

Elly and Pat already have a number of ideas they want to pitch at the summit including managing water resources better, increasing water-storage infrastructure, and making sure farmers have access to support after the drought breaks when, they said, farmers would be restocking animals and re-establishing contracts with overseas buyers.

Elly would like to see level one water restrictions enforced throughout good times and bad. And Pat said there needed to be greater oversight of drought relief funding.

“Politicians need to open their ears and listen to what people have to say,” Pat said. “And make sure the money they are giving out is going to the right causes.”

Access to education and mental health support were other areas they hoped the conference would cover.

Elly and Pat said they were both planning to continue their family’s businesses.

“It’s what you know, what you do and what you love,” Pat said. “Even though it’s tough, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Newcastle Herald

Most Viewed in Environment

Loading

About admin

Check Also

Catchment curb could cap benefit of ‘outrageously expensive’ dam plan

Loading The plan, which includes $24 million for a feasibility study for a dam on …