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The horrific Victorian bushfires that have ravaged much of the Australian state have shocked the world, with whole towns destroyed and a death toll that has climbed into the hundreds.

The worst natural disaster in the country’s history, now known as ‘Black Saturday’, has sparked an outpouring of grief  and support from countrymen eager to help those in need, with well over $75 million dollars having already been donated to bushfire appeals.

The impact of the fires has stretched far and wide, with the organisers of New Zealand’s Otago Rally the latest to throw their support behind the fundraising efforts.

Held around Dunedin in the deep south of New Zealand’s South Island, the rally has attracted many Australian competitors over the past few years, with up to 15 Aussie crews regularly competing in what is widely regarded as the Southern Hemisphere’s foremost classic rally.

Event organisers, however, have decided that they would like to do their small part in helping to rebuild parts of the community devastated by the fires – many of which were regular stops on the Victorian rally calendar.

“The Otago Rally has benefited over the years from the great support that we've had from the Aussie competitors who have regularly made the trip over the Tasman,” Otago Rally Clerk of Course, Norman Oakley, said.

“I think the images from the bushfires that we've seen on TV and the other news reports have shown such a scene of destruction that we can hardly comprehend in our rather damp corner of the South Island.”

The 2009 Otago Rally will therefore donate $150 from every entry fee that they receive from Australian competitors, directly to the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) bushfire support appeal. All contributions will be donated to CAMS members and the communities who have been affected by the fires.

“With the expressions of interest that we've received so far this should amount to about $1500 in total,” Oakley added.

“We know that this is a drop in the ocean compared to what will be needed, but we hope this small gesture will be of some help.”

This year’s Otago Rally will be held on May 16 and 17. For further details on the event, go to www.otagorally.co.nz

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