From selling homes to replacing burnt fences

Peter Koiker, Director of Barry Plant in Diamond Creek, has put his life on hold for a month to travel to Kangaroo Island to work with Blaze Aid helping repair the kilometres of fencing that was destroyed in the recent catastrophic bushfires.

Joining Blaze Aid volunteers from all around Australia, and indeed from all around the world, Peter works five days out of seven hitting the road at 7.30 am with a team of six people (male and female, young and old) to either clear damaged fences or build kilometre after kilometre of fencing.

By the 12th of February Blaze Aid volunteers had cleared 626 kilometres and erected 44 kilometres of fencing. It’s hard work but Peter says that there is nothing better than driving past a farm where you’ve replaced the fences and the paddocks have stock in them again. “Put in simple terms, you are helping the farmer farm. You are letting him or her get back to producing food”, Peter explains. “And it feels great to have been able to help.”

Before he left, Peter approached the local Mitre 10 in Diamond Creek. Together, they helped out by donating equipment which he then took with him to South Australia. Working out of Parndana, one of three major towns on the island, Blaze Aid provides a hearty breakfast for all volunteers, the ingredients for a pack-your-own lunch, and an evening meal.

Farmers provide the materials they need to build the new fences. Because of the closeness to the sea, traditional steel star pickets are rarely used for fencing as they rust so the new fencing consists of treated pine posts. A tall man, Peter finds continually bending to staple the wire to the new posts a job that well and truly tests his back. Fortunately, it’s not his only job!

“The devastation to wildlife has been another really tragic aspect”, Peter says. “And those that survived are struggling to find food.”

He tells of a hectare of land on a farm which had been planted with Casuarina trees – specifically to feed glossy black cockatoos - which is now totally burnt out.

While the volunteers are well equipped, Peter says they can always do with more of the fully kitted out fencing trailers. “They cost about $25,000 each and carry chainsaws, augers, drills, strainers and other tools needed by the teams. Specially designed, they make it easier to transport and roll out the long lengths of wire - plain, barbed or ring lock, depending on what the farmer needs.”

With many thousands kilometres of fencing to be replaced not only on Kangaroo Island, but throughout Australia, these trailers are certainly a worthwhile item to fund raise for. Corporations are even encouraged to sponsor trailers.

Many friendships are formed and the sense of camaraderie and sense of purpose is overwhelming. Volunteers can do a day’s work or more if their time permits. A weekend, a week, or even a month. Some come, go, and then return later. It all helps the farmers and it helps Australia.

The Barry Plant Group is part of the industry fundraising initiative Beyond The Bricks. They have already contributed just shy of $150,000 to bushfire relief efforts. At their recent KickStart event they raised $44,950 and will take a portion of that money raised to buy a fully kitted out fencing trailer for Blaze Aid to use.