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Drought pushes graziers to seek greener pastures and buy additional properties

Saskia Mabin, Saturday November 2, 2019 - 18:52 EDT
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The Christie family split their time between two properties at Broken Hill and Benalla — 800 kilometres apart. - ABC licensed

Every two months, Christy and Paul Christie load their four young sons into the car and pack a separate truck with motorbikes, dogs and all the gear they will need as they travel 800 kilometres to Corona Station north of Broken Hill.

The Christies have owned Corona Station for eight years.

They made the decision to buy a second property in Benalla to give their stock a better chance at survival during the drought.

"There's a lot of different ways to do things at the moment," said Christy.

"We could either sell all our stock or buy this other property and keep the stock.

"Financially it was a big step because we had to borrow all the money."



The decision to buy a second property 800 kilometres away also meant the family was split up for four months while they were expecting a new baby.

"I came back here the night before Finn was born, had Finny and then was back down there," Paul said.

"It's almost a blur how it all happened."

"There were times there when both of us were quite miserable … but there was never a time when we were saying that we shouldn't have done this, as far as I remember," Christy said.



Now in their second year of maintaining both properties, the Christies said they not only know a lot more about sheep and farming, but they also enjoy their lifestyle so much that they are prepared to live back and forth between their properties for years to come.

"We've now had the opportunity to see what it's like living close to town and in a more populated area in buying this new property, but we want to try and bring them up in both areas if we can," Christy said.

"We definitely will be keeping Corona … we might keep doing the gypsy lifestyle for another 10 years."

Seeking greener pastures



David and Sarah Sandow lived in the Packsaddle and Milparinka district north of Broken Hill.

Seeking greener pastures, they moved 900 kilometres away with their three children to explore new opportunities, and a new type of farming, at an irrigation property near Hay.

"We haven't ever considered selling our land up home where we come from," David said.



"We inevitably seem to run into these periods where you might sell all your stock … you just stall, you lose production and come to a crossroad. This was all intended just to give us another set of options moving forward."

David said moving and setting up as irrigators came at a large financial cost, but the transition has been positive.

"We're fairly established down here now," he said.

"Our intention is when it rains, because it will rain up bush again, we'll have enough stock to at least get a good start on things and we can just get moving and make the most of the opportunities ahead."

'The right decision for our family'



For Georgina and Terry Luckraft, the decision to move their family was meant to be temporary.

They destocked at Allandy station near White Cliffs in the far west and moved their cattle and sheep to a property at Tarcutta — a small farming town halfway between Sydney and Melbourne.

Eighteen months on, Georgina said Allandy is still home but there is also "a certain reality that starts to creep in".

"We haven't really put any money into the house, or the furniture, or the actual living scenario yet, because we kept thinking, 'we're heading home'. That's always been in the back of our minds and to be honest it still is," she said.

"At the same time, you kind of get a reality check at some point and you go 'hmm are we really going home or should I buy myself a comfy couch?'"

Although sustaining both properties has brought on new financial pressures, the Luckrafts have not considered selling Allandy — Georgina doubted there would be any interested buyers while the drought continues.



With limited livestock and interest payments to be made, Georgina said "the cashflow problem is imminent", but they do not regret the decision to invest in a new property.

"If we didn't have this place we would be in exact same situation but it would've been a whole lot sooner," she said.

"I still think that we've made the right decision … for our business but they were also right for our family and that probably at the end of the day is worth more to us anyway — our family is worth more than our business."


- ABC

© ABC 2019

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