The Pannach's property at Rappville where 12km of fencing bordering state forest was burned.
The Pannach's property at Rappville where 12km of fencing bordering state forest was burned.

Widow's plea to Forestry Corp after fire destroys farm

WENDY Pannach has done it tough this year.

Her husband Garry Pannach died of esophageal cancer on April 23. He was 53 years old.

The family of six lived in Modanville and had a cattle farm at Rappville.

Garry liked nothing better than to tend to the cattle and dreamt of one day being a full-time farmer, Wendy said.

When Garry became seriously ill, the family moved to Toowoomba to be near family in his final weeks.

Then in early October, their Rappville property was destroyed in the Busbys Flat fire that tore through the region.

Wendy was going to sell the farm but because of the fire, the sale fell through.

But she's glad about that now and plans to keep the farm and run it from Toowoomba with some local help.

"Garry would have loved that," she said.

The problem is the 12kms of fencing that has been destroyed in the fire.

The property borders the Braemar State Forest and usually neighbours would go halves in fixing a fence but state legislation means the Forestry Corporation doesn't have to contribute.

Garry and Wendy Pannach with their four children, formerly of Modanville, who have a property at Rappville where 12km of fencing bordering state forest was burned.
Garry and Wendy Pannach with their four children, formerly of Modanville, who have a property at Rappville where 12km of fencing bordering state forest was burned.

Wendy wrote this letter to the Forestry Corporation but has not received a reply.

"Dear Forest Corp,

This year has been the crappiest ever. It's been an exercise in resilience, but you're testing my limits.

This year I have survived telling my four young kids their dad was going to die.

I held him while he fell apart in the middle of the night.

I maintained our routine through chemo and radiotherapy while packing up our house to move closer to family. I kept my chin up while we fed cattle, then sold cattle, and crossed our fingers for rain. I hugged my howling children as they said goodbye to their Dad.

I finished a masters degree although barely able to concentrate, and started a full-time job when my kids needed me at home.

I was cool, calm and collected on October 9 when my neighbour called to tell me our beautiful 550 acre farm at Rappville had burned to a cinder. I was thankful that we'd sold all our cattle when I found out all our fencing was gone.

But Forest Corp, when I think about the fact that you're my only neighbour who won't share the cost of clearing the fence line (which is strewn with your timber), and you won't share the cost of replacing the fence so that I can restock when it finally rains, it tests every ounce of strength I have left.

It's going to cost me more than $20,000 to replace the fence you share with me, and could cost up to $100,000 to replace all the fences. Just because you have an exemption under NSW legislation that means you're not legally required to share the cost, doesn't mean that your ethical conscience and corporate social responsibility shouldn't compel you to do so."

Wendy has been in touch with the Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis who raised the issue with the deputy premier John Barilaro who is also the Minister for Forestry.

"I think Forestry are being bloody-minded on this," Mr Gulaptis said.

"These are exceptional circumstances. Trees in state forests are grown right up to the fence line and fall on fences.

"They need to show some consideration and concern."

Mr Gulaptis said he wasn't going to give up on getting the Forestry Corporation to contribute to Wendy's fences.

Everyone is hurting from these fires, and the state should be hurting too, he said.

A Forestry Corporation spokesman said while they empathised with the Pannach family, state forests have tens of thousands of kilometres of boundaries with private properties statewide, including many impacted by the fires, and unfortunately Forestry Corporation is unable to make a voluntary contribution to all the neighbours affected.

Wendy wants to see the legislation that exempts state forests from maintaining fences to be changed.

"When kilometres of fences are wiped out, it's reasonable to go halves," she said.

Wendy is in Rappville on December 28 and hopes to meet with affected farmers and Mr Gulaptis to discuss the issue further.

• Wendy has set up an online petition on change.org at https://www.change.org/p/state-parliaments-make-state-forestry-share-the-cost-of-replacing-fences-after-natural-disaster?recruiter=367974528&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_petition&recruited_by_id=b8bc7e00-4bb6-11e5-be23-53ac4fb4a630&utm_content=fht-19557643-en-au%3Av10


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