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Getting food to the Lands—not your typical grocery run

Supplying food and fresh produce to the remote communities of 四色AV Lands isn’t your typical grocery run, it’s a fortnightly process involving ordering, scheduling and a whole lot of driving!


The scope and scale of travelling through the Western Desert would be difficult to conceive for your typical city driver who occasionally takes a trip ‘down south’! 


NATS’s (四色AV Agency and Transport Services) driver, Rod Moiler, a stalwart and icon of the organisation for over three decades, shared some insight into what it looks like to bring supplies into the eleven communities that form the 四色AV Council.

“For 33 years, my rhythm was a fortnightly run that began on Wednesday with a pick-up of the big order from FAL (now Metcash) in Canning Vale. From there, it would be back to NATS in Welshpool, and on Thursday, we would get deliveries for each community in order, as well as any other supplies that needed to be distributed,” Rod said.


“I’d also make sure that I had the truck fully sorted and good to go with other supplies that may be helpful to others along the way—extra water, fresh fruit from my fruit trees at home, puncture kits to help other travellers out of a tight spot, and newspapers for the graders,”


“On Friday, I’d haul out of Perth, usually stopping outside of Kalgoorlie,”


“By Saturday, all going well with the weather and breakdowns—never a sure thing—I’d be driving in Warburton.


It’s never a sure thing because conditions are variable. The Western Desert experiences soaring temperatures that remind you to ensure your air-con is in good working order, but also experiences flash flooding that can get derail even the most experienced driver.

“There was a time when I was stuck in Laverton for a week waiting for the road to be drivable, and another when I did a load out to Alice Springs and back because it was impossible to drive west, but the need was desperate, so I headed east,” Rod said.


“There were other times where I got stuck in one of the communities because of the weather. I’d end up helping the store owners with some welding or stacking the shelves to fill in the time before I could get back out on the road,” he adds.


Rod took the initiative to bring newspapers for the operators of the road graders as well as fresh fruit. He figured out quickly enough that everyone helps each other in these remote places, and he might need some road grading to make a delivery before too long. More than once, those operators drove through the night to clear a path so Rod could make his next delivery.


As Rod would make his way out of Warburton on a Sunday, it would be along a route that became increasingly familiar.

“As I went from Jameson to Wanarn and on to each of the communities, I’d be delivering as well as backloading,”


“There’d be different supplies that needed to head back to Perth—from the Education Department or Police, or even a stranded tourist or their car—they’d be loaded on board as I made my way around the lands,”


“By Tuesday, I’d be back in Warburton, backloading anything from there before heading back to Perth on Wednesday morning,” Rod says.

“I’d arrive back in Perth late Thursday afternoon and then unload all the backloaded supplies at NATS,” 


“Then, I’d spend the weekend with my family before spending Monday and Tuesday servicing the truck and getting it ready to do it all again on Wednesday!”


Unsurprisingly, Rod has clocked up plenty of kilometres out on the Lands. Over his career, a conservative estimate of 70,000 kilometres each year adds up to nearly 2.5 million kilometres on the road. 


He speaks fondly of his trucks, favouring Macs above all others across the years.


“Five of my seven trucks have been Macs. My last one was six years old when I bought it. By the time I got it, it had already travelled 1.5 million kilometres on a regular Perth to Darwin run. I probably put another 500,000 kilometres on that one,” Rod says.


Numbers like this are a healthy reminder of the challenges of remoteness, including the challenge of getting fresh supplies to the lands. It’s certainly not a quick run to the store to get a few things for dinner. There are schedules, orders, forward planning, weather, breakdowns, and setbacks amongst the rich and rewarding long hauls. 


Rod Moiler was one of the first drivers for NATS. He played a pivotal role in the early days, not only behind the wheel but also mentoring new drivers on the nuances of efficiently packing and navigating the challenging 900 kilometres of dirt road to Warburton and beyond. 

While Rod retired in 2020, his legacy continues as he shares his invaluable experience with new drivers, ensuring that the quality and reliability of NATS remain strong, sustaining the lands with all the supplies that have become a reliable lifeline.


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