NSW 100 per cent in drought: minister


NSW 100 per cent in drought: minister

Some farmers have been forced to shoot livestock as grazeable land and crops become increasingly scarce

Some farmers have been forced to shoot livestock as grazeable land and crops become increasingly scarce

The drought may be Australia's worst in 400 years, according to a recent University of Melbourne study, which reconstructed 800 years of seasonal patterns.

NSW produces about a quarter of Australia's agricultural output. It was officially listed as "100% in drought" on Wednesday. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said that nationally, it was the driest July in Australia since 2002.

The state government said today that the entire 309,000 sq m state was affected, with 23 per cent of it suffering from "intense drought".

But the problem is not confined to NSW - more than half of neighbouring Queensland is in drought.

Less than 10 millimetres of rain was recorded in the western, northwest, and central areas of NSW over the past month and drier-than-normal conditions are forecast for the next three months across the majority of the state. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull toured some drought-stricken communities on Sunday, announcing $12,000 grants for each affected farming family.

The drought has hit farmers particularly hard, with crop, water, and fodder shortages putting their livelihoods at risk. The lack of food for animals has resulted in farmers being forced to ship in grain or hay from other parts of the country to keep sheep and cattle alive, spending thousands of extra dollars each week just to get by, while others have had to shoot starving animals.

Less than 10 millimetres of rainfall has been recorded in New South Wales over the last month
Less than 10 millimetres of rainfall has been recorded in New South Wales over the last month

Much of Australia's southeast is struggling with drought.

Farmers are already eligible for annual relief payments of up to A$16,000 each.

Australia's most populous state was declared entirely in drought on Wednesday and struggling farmers were given new authority to shoot kangaroos that compete with livestock for sparse pasture during the most intense dry spell in more than 50 years.

"What we have to is make sure we [the government] back them in when the times get as tough as they are now", he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation earlier this week.

"Now we are the land of droughts and flooding rains, we recognise that", he said.

That event coincided with two El Nino systems, which are often associated with droughts in Australia.