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Australian farmers relish much-needed NZ breaks

24 April 2007

RELIEF provided to drought-affected Australian farmers in the form of free holidays in New Zealand – including flights and accommodation – is making a huge impact on the lives of farm families who have taken up the offer over the past month.

Over 40 farm families across Australia are now counting down to their departure date, while a one South Australian couple are already home, holiday snaps to show and much rejuvenated.

Vicki and Rex Foster – who are based on a 20,000 acre property in South Australia growing wheat, barley, canola, lupins and grazing merino sheep for wool – were the first Australian farmers to take up the offer and have recently returned from nine days on the South Island of New Zealand.

"The news we’d won our trip was heaven sent – it came just when we needed something really positive to look forward to," Mrs Foster said.

"Trying to keep the family afloat during this difficult time is very draining. The management of this operation is a big job – add in significant extra borrowings to try to trade our way through this drought... it causes us a lot of stress.

"The opportunity to switch-off from the ‘day-to-day’ worries of the business was great. And, while we were away, our boys contacted us with great news of some rain – two falls totaling 65mm at our home farm. It was such a relief.”

President of the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) David Crombie said, like the Fosters, farmers going on the free holidays are expressing how even just looking forward to a small break from the financial and emotional stress that the current drought has had on their families, is making a world of difference.

"It’s something positive to look forward to and a much-needed break... for most, it’s the first holiday they will have in many years," he said.

"While we can’t guarantee all the travelling farmers will receive news of rain while away, we hope they will return home with a lighter burden on their shoulders and a much more positive outlook for their future.

"We greatly appreciate the generosity and hospitality shown to Australian farmers by the members of the Federated Farmers of New Zealand in providing free accommodation in their holiday homes, and the tremendous spirit of Jetstar in providing 100 free flights across the Tasman."

[ENDS]

Note to Editors: Of the 40 farm families still set to go overseas 18 are from NSW, 9 from Victoria, 9 from Queensland and 4 from SA. The NFF can provide the contact details for the Fosters, as well as farmers preparing to leave in each of state, who are willing to talk to the media.

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250.

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