Federal approval needed for RAAF hay drop participation

Hay is on its way to north west Queensland from as far away as South Australia.
Hay is on its way to north west Queensland from as far away as South Australia.

A hay run on steroids has been mobilised in the last 24 hours to bring emergency fodder relief to desperate graziers in Queensland’s north west.

Around 24 road trains worth of hay have been sourced from South Australia, the Lockyer Valley and Mundubbera and much of it is on the road north.

However, AgForce CEO Mike Guerin said they were still awaiting federal government approval before aircraft could depart the RAAF base at Amberley with the Lockyer Valley hay.

This is the first bulk amount of hay that could reach the cut-off part of the flooded region if the green light were given.

“The hay is ready to go, the aircraft are ready to go, I’m not sure what we’re waiting for,” Mr Guerin said. “We just need someone to hit the go button.”

He said he had fielded phone calls throughout the night from despairing members who knew they were losing animals by the hour.

“As we all know, they are ruminant animals and their stomachs don’t cope well without food in them.

“They’ve been a number of days without any and there’s only so long they can go, without the extreme weather conditions on top.”

Mr Guerin described the situation in the north west as equal to the disaster that had befallen Townsville.

According to Charles Adler, Rural Aid had diverted 400 bales of hay from a failed wheat crop in South Australia that had been heading to parts of NSW, and that it was past Broken Hill and heading north by the hour.

It’s expected this would be distributed via helicopter in the southern flood zones once it reached Longreach.

“After that, we hope it will be a constant stream of hay – more is coming from Mundubbera and we have managed to buy hay from Collinsville as well,” Mr Adler said.

AgForce’s Mike Guerin said they were relying on local knowledge to prioritise how the hay would be delivered once the bulk arrived at its destinations.

“This is a really dynamic, fast-moving event and local knowledge must be relied upon,” he said. “We urge people to speak with their local councils regarding their need, and we will supply the support based on what they tell us.”

It’s also believed there will be big need for avgas to fuel the choppers standing by to ferry the hay out.