Counting the toll at Holstons Station

Counting the toll at Holstons Station


Cows and calves and the iconic Hollstons Shearing shed has been destroyed by fire in East Gippsland.


Andrew Battersby and Lisa Notley stand in a paddock on Holstons Station surrounded by charred paddocks and thick smoke at Reedy Flat, 20 minutes east of Ensay.

An Australian Defence Force private and Melbourne firefighter had earlier that morning visited the property to assess the damage to nearby paddocks and the iconic shearing shed which was destroyed by fire on December 30.

Despite the fire threat easing in last few days, recovery work is only just beginning after the fire burnt 65 kilometres of internal fencing and destroyed another nine kilometres of fencing on the boundary of the 1000-hectare property.

"The fire started over the back in bush from a lightning strike and over the course of six weeks we've had the fire come through four times," Mr Battersby said.

"It's burnt 80 per cent of the farm, we've lost a shearing shed, cows and calves, internal fences and appliances like boom sprays and not to mention most of our pastures ... but we count ourselves as lucky."

Many farmers throughout East Gippsland are yet to assess the extent of damage as fires still burn uncontrolled throughout the region.

However, at Holstons Station 34 first-calving Angus heifers with calves at foot and a bull have been euthanised.

As the fires burnt at Holstons Station, they were simultaneously under threat by another blaze at Buchan near Gillingall Station, a second property managed by the the pair and both owned by Melbourne businessman Peter August.

"We had six cows and four calves killed by the fires at Holstons but many had burns so we called up DELWP and they organised to get vets out here straight away to assess and take care of them and bury them for us," Mr Battersby said.

"Before the fire happened the biggest stress was our livestock because we had to put them somewhere where we thought they'd get enough room to run and we basically lived on hope.

"They're our responsibility and the decisions we make affect them.

"They have no choice of where they were and that's the hardest part about it all because there's a sense of helplessness."

Agriculture Victoria said on Monday 772 stock losses had been recorded in East Gippsland with the number expected to rise as access to fire-affected regions improves.

Twenty-four homes, nine wool sheds, 41 hay sheds and 74 machinery sheds have also been destroyed while more than 1800 tonnes of hay and sillage are believed to have been lost.

"Pasture is one of our biggest long-term impacts because we have none," Mr Battersby said.

"We're going to have to hand feed and that's a huge challenge when we're already in drought."

Land management of noxious weeds is also expected to take a hit after Holstons Station underwent a large-scale spray operation last autumn to control the growth of capeweed and thistles.


From the front page

Sponsored by