Accommodation offers have been pouring in from New Zealand farmers to provide a break for Australian farmers caught up in the bush fires.
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Nathan Addis and Mark Warren, with smoke haze from Aussie bush fires in the background.

“We have had a bit of a run. It has been crazy,” says Nathan Addis who set up the Facebook page ‘New Zealand Farmers Offer Free Accommodation to Aussie Farmers from Bush Fire Zones’.

“With the sheer volume of emails we have received it is taking a while to go through and respond to everyone. Google only give you a set number you can send out each day so you don’t spam people.”

Offers of accommodation and assistance totalled 675 and the Facebook page has cracked almost 6,000 likes when Addis talked to the Rural News last week.

Addis says the offers have been pretty generous ranging from people being able to take a couple into their existing home to multi-bed offers including a 14 bed motel in the South Island.

“We are also getting a bit of a groundswell of corporates contacting us saying ‘how can we help you make this happen?’” says Addis, who was hoping for even more offers as companies get back into gear after the holiday period.

They have also had some offers to contribute to airfares. He hopes the airlines will get on board and offer some of their spare capacity on the Trans-Tasman route. “There are enough of them coming over here between Virgin, Qantas, Emirates, Air New Zealand and all of the others fly out of Australia.”

Addis says they also need to put systems in place to ensure people are looked after the whole time they are here and have a really positive experience.

Some of those coming over will want a quiet place to stay where they can chill out and others may want a more social environment.

Organisers are definitely still open to people registering accommodation, Addis says.

“We’ve had a bit of kickback from a few townies who have said they want to be involved too. We encourage those people to register. There will be some rural folk that want a holiday in town for a change of scene. We are embracing all.”

The original concept was peer to peer support. “We don’t have fires of any comparison but we do have droughts over here and farmers are very compassionate people.”

Further down the track he can see more need for urban accommodation also. There may be a second wave of Australians wanting to come such as firefighters and other first responders.

Addis says obviously they will not arrive all at once and he thinks it will be a month or two before they want to leave their own vicinity.

Those who have suffered losses need a support network put around them and will need to secure their situation first. If they have lost houses they may need to sort alternative accommodation in Australia first, they may need register for government support networks while they are available and sort insurance.

From this end organisers need to make sure they have structures in place to ensure they uphold the spirit and integrity of the idea. That includes ensuring they don’t get freeloaders.

Addis admits he thought it may have taken a while for the idea of offering accommodation to build but within 12 hours of the Facebook page going live it had exceeded expectations.

Some had even offered to host families on an ongoing basis. They will need to work with other organisations to ensure when people get here they are looked after from end to end.

Addis is being assisted by two other organisers at this stage, Alix Bush and Mark Warren.

Australia is likely to welcome the offers.

A labour dispute at a Quebec dairy plant has led to the dumping of 2 million litres of milk since Wednesday.

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