VICTORIAN farmers affected by last week’s bushfires have begun the task of rebuilding their livelihoods, as the final damages bill mounts.
Ballarat-based livestock agent Mick Madden said the fire in the Chepstowe-Carngham area was one of the worst for property damage he had seen.
“As far as size goes it wasn’t a huge fire, but as far as capital damage loss it would be one of the bigger ones you’ve seen,” he said.
The Charles Stewart & Co agent, based in the area for 35 years, said he had one client, Kim Nunn, who had lost his home, more than 600 sheep and about 50 cattle, while another had pasture and hay destroyed, and a third client had one-third of his property burnt out, including hay and fencing.
The Insurance Council of Australia’s latest estimate of the State’s damage bill is $9 million. Victoria has been spared the worst of the summer’s fires to date, with Tasmania’s bill now estimated at $52.5m, with 575 claims lodged.
The Department of Primary Industries’s Ballarat rural recovery coordinator, Phil Franklin, said the area’s livestock toll was 643 sheep and 60 cattle. There have been no other reported livestock losses in the State.
Mr Franklin said the priority for DPI teams on the ground was assessing animal health, with further advice for pasture recovery and planning to be offered in the future.
Landmark Ballarat livestock manager Xavier Shanahan confirmed that despite the highly-publicised destruction of the Carngham Station homestead and gatehouse building – owned by his clients, the Hardman family – there was no livestock or farm infrastructure destroyed, apart from general fencing.
Mr Madden said farmers would have to ask themselves whether they “want to have another go” after the damage.
“Do you sell up or go, or do you live with it?” he said.
“It depends, some disappear between the cracks, but as a general rule people rebuild.”
Mr Madden said he feared not many would be fully insured.
But the man he described as probably the worst affected in the area, Mr Nunn, has told Stock & Land he would carry on.
“I have just put in an order to buy a couple of hundreds ewes (on Tuesday), get the fencing done and try to make an income again – we’re going to rebuild,” he said.
Mr Nunn and his family lost their home and all possessions in the fire which burnt their 186-hectare property at Carngham, 30km west of Ballarat.
While all livestock were lost, the Nunns have another 490ha property nearby which was untouched.
Mr Nunn stripped about 50ha of red wheat from the property yesterday.
The 1300ha Chepstowe fire – started by accident in a paddock by sparks from a ute - destroyed nine homes, seven sheds and caused six people to be treated for minor burns and smoke inhalation.
The state’s largest fire, in the Kentbruck area in the far south-west, remains active but controlled.
Dartmoor CFA group officer and Drik Drik farmer Neal Emerson expressed his gratitude for the crews who battled the long-duration fire, which has affected 11,890ha, mostly national park.
“I think it’s blooming marvellous,” Mr Emerson told CFA Media.
“There was excellent work from Parks [Victoria] and DSE (and) the firefighters from HVP and Hancock pine plantations (also) left their pine trees and helped do asset protection in Drik Drik when we were in trouble,” he said.
“It’s the biggest fire I’ve ever seen in this district but we are so lucky.
“There has been no home loss, no sheds lost, no stock loss - we’ve lost about five kilometres of private fencing and one of my brigade members had lost about 50 hectares of farmland.
“We’re mainly a beef cattle area and everyone helped each other shift stock or organise trucks to cart away cattle.”