Rebuilding plans ahead after South-West fires

Rebuilding plans ahead after South-West fires


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Garvoc sheep farmer Angus McGillivery is still waiting to rebuild after last year's St Patrick's Day fires. Photo by Rob Gunstone.

Garvoc sheep farmer Angus McGillivery is still waiting to rebuild after last year's St Patrick's Day fires. Photo by Rob Gunstone.

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Angus McGillivery has had to rebuild his livelihood from scratch after the Garvoc fire destroyed his home and all but 60 of 1000 sheep.

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Sheep farmer Angus McGillivery said he can still hear the desperate cries of his sheep as he fled with his family through smoke and flames on St Patrick's Day last year, only just making it out in time themselves.

Driven by the wildfire, his flock of 1000 headed to the gate where they would usually wait for Mr McGillivery to let them through. 

But this time there was no escape and that's where he found them the next day.

The inferno took his home and his livelihood that night, as well as his faithful friend Bert, the Border Collie.

The loss of all but 60 of 1000 sheep hit hard.

To the McGilliverys, they weren't just animals, they were like family.

Mr McGillivery said it would take years to build up his livestock again, although he said of the 60 ewes that survived, nearly all have had ewe lambs.

"I feel really blessed about that, normally it's 50/50, so we're thrilled," he said.

Despite all that he has been through, Mr McGillivery said he saw himself as a survivor, not a victim.

But that doesn't mean things haven't been tough.

With no fuel storage at the farm, he now had to make multiple trips to town with Jerry cans.

Having to set up a temporary shed on a neighbour's property to shear sheep had ended up costing as much time to shear 60 as it would have to shear 1000.

While they have been told that they needed to adjust to a new normal, Mr McGillivery said theirs was a lot more demanding.

He said the support from BlazeAid for the boundary fences, Moyne Shire recovery van and other community groups as well as his church community had been wonderful.

While many of the burnt out vehicles, machinery and a shipping container full of tools still remain at his property, where his house once stood is just leveled gravel.

There are no plans to rebuild just yet.

They have been knocked back for a fire concessional loan because they have no history of being in big debt; the sheep farm survived on their annual wool and prime lamb cheques.

The family owned their property and lived on a principle of living within their means.

"We were pretty under-insured," he said.

"The things that we did have insured were only insured at market value not at replacement value."

The family's house wasn't insured.

His farm financial adviser has advised him to appeal the decision.

"What we put forward was highly profitable, it's just that we don't have a big debt," he said.

Mr McGillivery said his first priority was to re-establish an income and make sure the property was profitable.

He described the fires as a "reality check".

"We realised our frailty and vulnerability because we weren't expecting a worst case scenario," he said.

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