Whole state gripped by ‘one of worst droughts’

 

THE entire state is now gripped in one of the worst droughts on record in which livestock have starved to death en masse and forced farmers off the land.

Prime farming land around Coonabrabran, Broken Hill and between Orange and Dubbo have recorded the driest 18-month period since records began in 1900.

The Bureau of Meteorology's latest climate outlook for the next three months is predicting high chances of warmer and drier conditions over the drought-affected regions.

According to Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair, the latest drought update confirms what many farmers across the state have seen, with only 0-10mm of rain recorded over the past month in the Western, North West and Central areas of NSW.

"Some areas of the state did receive some welcome rainfall this month that has provided a little relief for stock and domestic water; unfortunately though it will not even come close to the recovery needed for most farmers," Mr Blair said.

 

James (left) and Harrison O'Brien feed grain to hungry calves at the family’s drought-ravaged farm in Five Ways in the middle of NSW. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
James (left) and Harrison O'Brien feed grain to hungry calves at the family’s drought-ravaged farm in Five Ways in the middle of NSW. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

Less than one per cent of the state near Coffs Harbour and on the Victorian border in the state's south-west had been classed as "non drought" until today.

A drone photograph shows the low level of water in a dam on the O'Brien property. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
A drone photograph shows the low level of water in a dam on the O'Brien property. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

Based on a complex formula of rainfall, soil moisture and pasture growth, 23 per cent of the state is in "intense drought", 38.2 per cent is in "drought" and the remaining 38.7 per cent is "drought affected".

The state government last month quietly amended its drought map in response to fierce criticism from farmers without a green blade of grass, whose properties were categorised as being merely in "drought onset".

The categories "drought watch" and "drought onset" were scrapped.

The Sunday Telegraph this week reported the federal government will give hardest-hit farmers $12,000 in two lum-sum payments from September in addition to a modest welfare payment of $295 welfare payment.

The brown surrounds at the O’Brien farm echoes the experience of many other NSW farmers. Picture Sam Ruttyn
The brown surrounds at the O’Brien farm echoes the experience of many other NSW farmers. Picture Sam Ruttyn

The state government has restored freight subsidies worth $20,000 per farm as part of a $500 million drought package but has repeatedly hinted more support is on the way if spring is as dry as predicted.

However, the state government has refused to officially declare the drought a natural disaster akin to a flood or bushfire and ignored an offer of military help.

The sight of wide expanses of dry earth greets farmers every day around the state. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
The sight of wide expanses of dry earth greets farmers every day around the state. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

Leading charity Vinnies and The Sunday Telegraph are running a drought appeal.

Donations can be made by calling 13 18 12, at www.vinnies.org.au, or at Vinnies shops.

State Manager of Bureau of Meteorology Bruce Gunn gives a drought briefing this week. Picture: AAP
State Manager of Bureau of Meteorology Bruce Gunn gives a drought briefing this week. Picture: AAP

 

This article originally appeared on The Sun and is reproduced with permission.