Drought-stricken NSW farmers delivered truckloads of hay from Tasmania

Mission Hay Bale: Mathew Whale from Wellington is almost ready to make the 700 kilometre journey home up the Princes Highway to deliver hay to drought affected areas in Western  NSW. Photo: Rachel Mounsey
Mission Hay Bale: Mathew Whale from Wellington is almost ready to make the 700 kilometre journey home up the Princes Highway to deliver hay to drought affected areas in Western NSW. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

The sweet smell of hay should waft across NSW tonight as hay laden trucks make their way up the Princess Hwy from Eden to deliver much needed fodder to drought stricken farms. 

Cargo ship Statesman left Circular Head in Tasmania on Monday and after a 30 hour journey carrying around 500 bales of hay across the "paddock" anchored up in Eden late Wednesday afternoon, March 13.

Thursday morning at the Eden Navy Wharf it was all hands on deck as the loading of the first truck got underway. Between a mixture of deckhands, crane drivers, truckies and Pambula-Merimbula  Lions Club volunteers it took about two hours to load 60 bales on to the first Dubbo-bound truck. 

Lions Clubs from Smithton, Circular Head (Tasmania), Pambula-Merimbula, and the Forbes Wellington District have collaborated on the joint venture.

Key organiser Gordon Matthews of the Pambula-Merimbula Lions said it had been a very big mission from go to woe.

"The hay was donated by the farmers from around the Smithton region in Tasmania - knowing the Lions Club I have no doubt they have begged, borrowed and stolen for a few bales of hay," he joked. 

Mr Matthews said the hay will be stored and distributed by the Geurie Lions Club.

The ship was operated by Eastern Line Shipping and the hay was delivered free of charge.

"Once the word got out, we received many offers of help from businesses all around the place  - it's been  an extremely good community  effort," Mr Matthews said.

Farmer and truck driver Mathew Whale gets the load ready for the long journey home .Photo: Rachel Mounsey

Farmer and truck driver Mathew Whale gets the load ready for the long journey home .Photo: Rachel Mounsey

Driver of the first truck off the rank was farmer and stock truck driver Mathew Whale, who drove his rig 700km from Wellington "just to help out".

"It's nothing really, I just want to look after the community, they've supported me through hardships and this is a way I can give back," Mr Whale, whose 4000 acre sheep and cattle property has been drought affected, said.

A slight drizzle began to fall as the truck was being loaded - Mr Whale held out his hands commenting  "We haven't seen rain like this for ages".

The first load of bales to be lifted off the boat took a little bit of time due to the lack of room to move on the hay-laden ship. Once they were off, things stared to move at a faster pace.

Crane controller from Sapphire Coast Cranes Malcolm Douglas said he was expecting the mission to last all day but wasn't worried about how long it took.

"We've got all day, but now were are getting more room to move things will really speed up," he said.

Around 11.30am, Mr Whale's truck was fully loaded and ready to go. With a huff of the brakes he began to move off the wharf making way for the next truck coming in for loading.

It turns out the other driver was a mate of his from Wellington. But no time for chatter - there were still another 11 trucks to load.