Road train wa­ter drillers

The hus­band and wife team and their young son head

Big Rigs - - OUTBACK HEROES - James Gra­ham James.Gra­[email protected]­grigs.com.au

AN­THONY and Danyelle Haigh are mak­ing the most of a rare so­journ at home in Al­lora when Big Rigs caught up with Aus­tralia’s busiest wa­ter drillers.

The hus­band and wife duo, along with their pre­co­cious four-year-old Heath, are hop­ing to be back again at their 80-acre oa­sis 160km south-west of Bris­bane by Christ­mas.

But the way the drought is grip­ping the North­ern Ter­ri­tory and western Queens­land this year – the main hunt­ing ground for the Haigh’s in-de­mand Mur­ranji Wa­ter Drilling busi­ness – Danyelle isn’t bank­ing on it.

“When we took over the busi­ness [four years ago] we were do­ing about 30 to 50 bores a year – this year we’re about to hit 100,” said Danyelle, 34.

“In just a year we’ve seen a mas­sive leap in the num­ber of peo­ple des­per­ate to get wa­ter.

“It’s just dev­as­tat­ing to see the im­pact on the crops, cat­tle and farm­ers; it’s re­ally quite sad.”

Sta­tion-by-sta­tion, how­ever, the Haighs and their rov­ing Western Star road train con­voy of drilling equip­ment and ship­ping con­tain­ers con­verted to liv­ing quar­ters, are win­ning the war.

They’ve hit wa­ter in just about ev­ery spot they’ve set up camp this year and Danyelle says noth­ing beats the sat­is­fac­tion of see­ing the smile that puts on the farm­ers’ faces.

“I never get sick of it, gosh no. My son screams ev­ery time we hit wa­ter and runs around shout­ing ‘we’ve got wa­ter, we’ve got wa­ter’.

“It’s very ex­cit­ing for ev­ery­one. You’re in sus­pense too be­fore that, stand­ing around, wait­ing pa­tiently.”

Danyelle ad­mits tak­ing the plunge and buy­ing out former owner Danny Smith – he named the busi­ness af­ter the sta­tion he owns 4.5 hours south of Kather­ine, NT – was the big­gest punt she and An­thony, 42, have made in their 11 years to­gether.

An­thony had been work­ing for Danny for a year or so be­fore then, but Danyelle, a nurse by pro­fes­sion, had been man­ag­ing her mum’s women-only traf­fic con­trol busi­ness on the Gold Coast, the role she had when they first met.

“It re­ally could have gone ei­ther way,” said Danyelle of those tense first few months in the out­back.

“We were go­ing into this whole new busi­ness where we were just buy­ing all this ma­chin­ery that cost a lot of money, go­ing up into where this guy who had been drilling for the last 20 to 30 years, and tak­ing on his clients who could eas­ily say, no we don’t like you, we don’t want to you use you.

“It was very stress­ful on all of us in the be­gin­ning, and we were com­ing into wet sea­son too so we were short on money and not sure on what was com­ing next.

“But about six months later it started to pick up. Clients were ring­ing us to come again next year and we started to pick up new work and new clients. Word was get­ting out that were gen­uine peo­ple do­ing a great job.”

It helps too that they have two of the most re­li­able prime movers in the game lug­ging seven trail­ers of heavy equip­ment through some of the most in­hos­pitable ter­rain on the planet.

An­thony bought the c15 550hp 2007 Western Stars one’s a Strato­sphere, the other a Con­stel­la­tion - from Strasburg Bros. in Mar­burg. He’s eye­ing up a third in the New Year.

They don’t do big k’s each

❝way. It re­ally could have gone ei­ther

— Danyelle Haigh

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

Danyelle, Heath and An­thony love the out­back life.

The Haighs are think­ing of adding a third Western Star to the fleet next year.

The drilling gear needs more up­keep than the trucks.

Heath still gets a thrill ev­ery­time they hit wa­ter.

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