Rethink called for in relief effort after "misplaced generosity"

A charity says that the drought relief effort has not been organised enough to maximise the help farmers actually get.

Well-meaning city people have rushed to give items in an “outpouring of emotion”, according to Caet Young, of “Givit”, a non-profit organisation which tries to match donors with those who need help.

“Carloads of unsolicited food hampers and tin cans arriving in drought-stricken towns are well meaning but it’s not the help that’s needed”, she said.

Sometimes, fuel has been bought to get truckloads of goods to drought areas but, she feels, money for fuel for farmers to use themselves would have been much more useful.

On top of that, the charity says that trucking food and household items into hard-pressed towns means local shops lose business.

The founder of Givit, Juliette Wright, said: “There are many workplaces organising ‘bring in a tin’ days for farmers. These actions are well meaning but these ‘can drives’ are taking vital business away from small local stores.

“In these communities it’s not just the farmers who are hurting”.

She suggested that gift cards where cash is donated so it can be spent in drought-hit communities is a better way of helping. Her own organisation’s website also offers farmers the chance to say what they need so it can be matched by a donor.

She said the needs on the ground could often be unexpected: “It could be a set of tyres for a ute, a replacement hot water system because they are taking cold showers or even a school uniform.’’

The charity’s view meshes with what some shop-keepers in Glen Innes have said. Their trade is down this year compared with last year, and they blame that on the drought. Farmers aren’t spending.

A Glen Innes property owner said there was also a difficulty in that there were so many federal, state and local agencies now involved in drought relief that there was a lack of communication and coordination. Many were just overwhelmed with work, according to David Donnelly who farms to the east of the town.