Nearly three years after campaigning unsuccessfully for large supermarket chains to put donation buckets at checkouts so shoppers could contribute cash to drought affected areas, Boulia’s Jack Neilson is a little cynical of recent drought aid pledges by Coles and Woolworths.
In October 2015, spokesmen for the businesses said they were already providing drought aid through a variety of charities.
Mr Neilson responded that he couldn’t get them to understand he wasn’t asking the companies to donate money themselves but instead was asking them to facilitate giving by the general public.
This week he said it was a shame they hadn’t come on board then, because it would have provided a good platform for help as the crisis drifted further south to NSW.
“People are obviously willing to support drought efforts, which is really encouraging to see, but we’re playing catch-up,” he said. “If it had started in 2015, it would have alleviated the problems we’ve got now.”
Mr Neilson asked what it was that had changed in three years, to have the big supermarket chains coming out so publicly in support of drought aid.
“The cynic in me says they can get good media out of it, now that drought’s hit big money areas of NSW,” he said.
It was in October 2015 that Mr Neilson took to social media to tell the world they were going through “the worst drought in living memory”, raising $70,000 for fuel for the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners’ January 2016 hay run to Ilfracombe.
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This week he said the situation at home at Two Rivers, Boulia, was “pretty desperate” where only 100mm had fallen last summer.
“Three paddocks got flood-out water from the flood that went through, so we’ll live on that for a couple of months.
“If we didn’t have that, we’d be buggered.
“As it is, people in the district are down to the bare bones.
“The scary thing is, there’s nowhere to go, there’s no looking south for relief this time.
“Feed’s like hen’s teeth as well – it’s all pretty scary.”
Boulia has had to cancel its campdraft twice this year, keeping the condition of stock uppermost, and Mr Neilson said they were grateful for the Big Red Bash at Birdsville and camel races at Boulia for bringing tourist dollars.
“Without it, the town would be in a very bad way,” he said.