Item 17 of 18
In Progress

Case study: Rebuilding and refining

At Narrawilly farm at Milton, NSW, Robert Miller has replaced and upgraded farm infrastructure since fire burned the property extensively in the first week of January 2020. “We lost seventy to eighty percent of our fencing, therefore the biggest thing was getting that addressed.

We decided to pull down every fence – wire that we strained again after fire snapped, it was not good. So we started with a clean slate.”

“We lost a lot of water and poly pipes, even under the ground, and a lot of fittings going into the water troughs, so we had a lot of leaks. We’ve put bigger water lines and put them deeper into the ground now. We’ve got a lot more dirt around our troughs, trying to protect our inlets.”

Robert Miller oversees BlazeAid volunteers building fences on his farm in February 2020.

“We’ve really modernised and updated the farm: the farm is more open, we’ve got new fencing, new laneways, new machinery. We’ve got water tanks everywhere that are easy to plug into a pump and use sprinklers. For convenience, we’ve used a lot more steel posts and galvanised posts – we’ve got a lot more metal fencing on the farm. It’s a lot more expense to have metal corner stays, but I want something that’s going to be there another 20–25 years without me doing anything more on it.”

Accepting the help that was offered was essential for a successful recovery. “I was fortunate that I had some farmer friends who came and helped me. I said, ‘Please take control of cleaning up’. They were taking loads of rubbish to the tip. They did a lot of the emotional stuff, so I could focus on the cows. At the end of the day we sat round and had a few drinks together and could relax a bit. It made a massive difference to my ability to cope.”

“Some farmers didn’t accept the help that was available, and there’s still a major job to be done on those farms. They could have had more help, but they didn’t take it because they were concerned about their farms being run down. Really, who else is worried about that? You don’t always have a picture-perfect farm. When trauma’s happened, you’ve gotta open up and say yes, please come and give us a hand.”

“After bushfires, you need something to lift you and give you a bit of positive energy. To people recovering from traumatic events: look at doing something different, that gives you a new experience. That’s what we took out of this – we’re thinking outside of our regular agriculture. The drought probably contributed too. But the fire was a total catalyst to say, don’t mess around anymore. If you’ve got a plan, do it.”