BlazeAid back in business and building up steam with new boss

Clinton Cole and Greg Dyson with one of the two utes on loan from John Oxley Motors
Clinton Cole and Greg Dyson with one of the two utes on loan from John Oxley Motors

The Macksville BlazeAid camp has come at the new decade with gusto. In just the first week back, volunteers have cleared nearly 2.5km of fence lines, and constructed nearly 3.5km of new boundary fences.

To date, over 28 km of fencing has now been rebuilt by BlazeAid volunteers in the Nambucca Valley.

Up to 35 volunteers are being deployed daily, and tents are mushrooming at the Showground.

Last week five young overseas backpackers volunteered their services alongside the trusty convoy of grey nomads.

And next week, several 'at-risk' youths will be giving their time to help those in need, and skilling up in the process.

On Thursday a delegation from BlazeAid will be in talks with Josh Frydenberg to negotiate those on NewStart and on Working Holiday Visas to be able to have their volunteer work with BlazeAid signed off as part of their commitments under those schemes, among other things.

Currently Over 55s on NewStart are eligible to be signed off but younger people on welfare are not.

In other news, from Monday Camp Coordinators Greg and Maxine Dyson will be handing over the reigns to finish up their six-year trip around Australia.

"We only have 35 kilometres left to go," South West Rocks local Greg said.

The pair have worked tirelessly for the past two months and been a shoulder to cry on for many in our Valley coming to terms with their loss.

After earning his stripes in Wingham, Clinton Cole has put up his hand to take over the role of Macksville Camp Coordinator.

Clinton was born into farming down in Ballarat and has a background in mining, agriculture, and emergency management.

In June he sold his station in Agnes Water, bought a caravan, and hit the road.

"But BlazeAid quickly caught my eye," he said.

"They just get stuck in - they're basically an army of volunteers - and they return a lot of investment back into the local community.

I'm self-retired. I thought, I could be sitting on a beach doing nothing, or I could be getting fit and healthy, enjoying what I'm doing, and helping people as I go.

"I just love rural fencing, so I volunteered with the Wingham Camp and was pumping out 400 metres of fencing a day."

While they're not short on volunteers at the moment, even after ramping up their efforts to seven days a week, Clinton predicts that the recent devastation in other parts of the country will start to have an effect on the supply of posts and wires.

"We're going to struggle moving forward because so much country's been burned," he said.

"There's 50,000km to be fenced just in southern NSW.

"But I'm here 'til the job's done and I want to see that we do the best job we can."

So far they've had 162 local farmers register and more are likely to come in the next few weeks.

"In typical farmer fashion, they're solid as a rock. But you can see the amount of work ahead of them. And a lot of people are still embarrassed about letting us onto their farm to help out," he said.

But we're just mates helping Aussie mates. There's no shame in putting your hand up and asking for a bit of help putting a fence up or getting some information.

"And our door's always open. You can even get in touch confidentially by phone."

He said from now on they'll be prioritising boundary fences, and doesn't believe they'll get to the internals.

"There are contractors out there that need to make a living, so by limiting us to just boundary fences it allows them to still make an income too," he said.

He estimates (conservatively) that $300,000 is required to purchase the materials needed to complete the work in the Valley.

But he has a list of other things that the camp is in need of too, including a big marquee to provide some shelter in inclement weather for those volunteers in tents, and a community bus to transport crews to site.

He's in talks with ADFA right now to secure the marquee, but hasn't gotten to the bus yet.

"With a bus, we could transport so many more people to where they're needed. Right now transport is a real issue," he said.

They're also in need of a long-term loan of some registered box trailers to transport tools out to site. They currently have six, which support a maximum of 36 people, but there's pressure to send two down south to help with the massive workload down there.

And they're always open to monetary donations.

"If you donate to BlazeAid you can 'fence' your donations, meaning you can nominate a postcode where you would like the dollars to be spent," he said.

There have already been some very valuable donations from locals and businesses in the community, including two shiny utes from John Oxley motors, which are helping them "put boots on the ground" and get out and meet local farmers.

The Anglican Parish of Macksville also donated five electric chainsaws and six pruners, Betta Electrical made sure they had a fridge and washing machine, Macksville Rotary have been supplying food for meals, and a range of community groups have been volunteering their cooking skills.

Rev Clyde Appleby from Macksville Anglican Parish donated five chainsaws and six pruners to BlazeAid

Rev Clyde Appleby from Macksville Anglican Parish donated five chainsaws and six pruners to BlazeAid

And the local volunteers just keep on rolling in - officially the highest ratio in the country.

"I'm fortunate enough that I get to experience the mateship that volunteering brings. It makes me proud to be an Australian," Clinton said.

For more information, contact Macksville BlazeAid Coordinator Clinton Cole on 0457 459 879.

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