NORTHCLIFFE has rebounded from one of the Western Australia’s largest bushfires in February to become WA’s official Legendairy town.
It becomes WA’s candidate, and one of eight towns across Australia’s dairy regions, in the running to be named the nation’s Legendairy capital later this year.

Brunswick Junction and Busselton were also nominated.

In all, 104 nominations were received for 39 towns across Australia in the Dairy Australia promotion.

As WA’s Legendairy town, Northcliffe will receive a $2500 community grant from Dairy Australia to build a sculpture commemorating the devastating bushfires which burned out 91,000 hectares of forest surrounding the town.

The sculpture will be added to the Understory art and nature sculpture walking trail adjacent to the Northcliffe visitor centre.

Five of the town’s eight dairy farms, including its best known and largest Bannister Downs, were damaged by the fire, which started as a lightning strike in State forest and threatened the town and surrounding farms for more than a week.

Three of the five dairy farms were severely affected, losing most of their dry pasture, hay and hundreds of kilometres of fencing.

However, the community quickly rallied to help, with local residents John Della Gola and Les Brown organising a hay register and co-ordinating deliveries of donated hay to farmers whose stock feed and pasture was destroyed.

Department of Agriculture and Food regional manager Ian Guthridge, staff member Jason Dearle and veterinarian Tom Hollingsworth repeatedly visited farms isolated behind roadblocks to bring in vital diesel fuel to keep dairy plant and pivot irrigators operating and to check herd health.

Manjimup Shire and the Southern Forests Food Council helped co-ordinate stockfeed and fencing materials donations and Blaze Aid volunteers who came over the following months to help rebuild fences.

Some farmers were unable to leave their properties because it was uncertain they would be allowed to return through road blocks.

They helped each other by sharing diary supplies and chemicals and organised permits for milk tankers to collect milk from their farms.

The visitor centre was the community liaison centre during the fire and its staff organised the Legendairy town nomination in 10 days after hearing about the promotion from Australia South West, the region’s tourism website.

Visitor centre manager Wendy Eiby said the entry was pulled together after staff member and Understory trail manager Fiona Sinclair contacted Bannister Downs managing director Sue Daubney and some of the other dairy farmers.

“We thought the Northcliffe dairy farmers should really be recognised for the way they all worked together during the fire,” Ms Eiby said.

“Leaving when the fire threatened wasn’t an option for them, they had cows to look after and they had to keep milking.”

While the statue was the main project, she said some funds would also be used for improved signage to promote the role of dairying in the town and to pursue obtaining a dump point so it could be recognised as a Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia (CMCA) RV-friendly town.

Many of the grey nomads who came to help farmers after the fire were CMCA members and camped at the Northcliffe recreation centre.

“The restoration work after the fire really highlighted the need for a dump point in town,” Ms Eiby said.

Manjimup Shire president Wade DeCampo said Northcliffe’s Legendairy town status was well deserved.

“Northcliffe was founded solely for group settlement and throughout its 90 years has been through many ups and downs, including the collapse of small dairy holdings,” Mr DeCampo said.

“Northcliffe epitomises the true meaning of resilience and community and as always, (residents) have emerged triumphant by gaining the crown as WA’s Legendairy capital.

“This title is truly deserving, as Northcliffe is certainly leading the way with dairy innovation and value adding and our farmers come from pioneering families who are true survivors.

“It goes without saying that the shire wants to see Northcliffe gain national Legendairy status.”

Dairy Australia program manager Suzi O’Dell said the independent panel that selected the national Legendairy capital finalists was overwhelmed by the passionate nominations.

“We knew Australia was home to plenty of proud, innovative dairy communities but we’ve been astounded by the quality of nominations and the stories of personal contributions dairy farmers have made to the social fabric of their towns,” Ms O’Dell said.

Other towns in the running to be named Australia’s Legendairy capital include Meeniyan (Gippsland, Victoria), Peterborough (western Victoria), Stanhope (Murray dairy, Victoria), Comboyne (NSW), Monto (subtropical, Queensland), Port Elliot (South Australia) and Smithton (Tasmania).

The town chosen will win a further $7500 to invest in its community project.

p For more information, visit www.legendairy.com.au/capital

Source: The Australian Dairyfarmer