Item 12 of 18
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Case study: Making recovery decisions

Craig and Tamara Corby at Belmont Park near Cobargo

Bushfire arrived on Craig and Tamara Corby’s lease farm Belmont Park near Cobargo, NSW, on New Year’s Eve 2019. Tamara remembers the challenges of the early days after the fire: “Early on, I said to Craig, ‘We’ve just been here for 12 months, there’s no way we can pivot out of this.’ Craig was really rational. Even before it was offered, Craig suggested agistment. He said, ‘The cows are our bread and butter, this is our business model, and that’s what’s going to bring us our income.’ We were just making the most rational decisions we could in an un-rational time.”

The Corbys had saved the hay in one shed from the fire and used that to feed the cattle initially, buying them time until they could arrange agistment. “The best advice I think is, if you’re uncertain about agistment, formalise it in a written agreement or contract so everyone knows their expectations. We’re very lucky that the guy where we’ve got our cattle is really good. He’s professional, he’s proactive in what they need, if they need vaccinating or that sort of thing. It works both ways; they’re aware of our expectations, so we work well together.”

With their agistment strategy, Craig and Tamara were even able to capitalise on new opportunities during recovery, purchasing some trade cattle and selling them to help support their post-fire cash-flow. They also received professional advice from a farm consultant. “Every time he left here it was a massive weight off our shoulders. We’re a couple who’s really open- minded about opportunities, so we were open to any advice to help build our business. It was more than just a bushfire recovery strategy; it was about helping us move forward and use tools beyond recovery.”

Accepting advice, as well as practical help, assisted their recovery. Craig says, “If people are offering you things, take them. We were a little bit hesitant to start with; you don’t want to be a charity case. If you’re offered something, take it and don’t be so proud to not take it. People feel good about giving, and at those times, you really need it.”

Tamara highlights the importance of thinking carefully before you make decisions under stress in the aftermath of a fire. “The important thing is just: Take a moment. It’s really easy to get caught up in it. But take a moment to think rationally. It is so hard to do, but it’s really important.”

Reflecting on their experience during recovery, the Corbys say, “We just dug deep and went for it. We’re optimistic about moving forward; it’s forced our hand and made us think laterally. It’s also made us more generous. As a result of our change in mindset, we’re actually in a different place. It really has given us some solid business foundations going forward, and our ability to think laterally. Moving forward, we’re in a better place.”