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Australian state of New South Wales entirely in drought

August 8, 2018

All of the Australian state of New South Wales' 800,000 square kilometers of land area is now officially in drought. Farmers have been given permission to shoot kangaroos that compete with livestock for sparse pasture.

A drought-affected paddock in the Australian state of New South Wales
Image: Reuters/D. Gray

The Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) was declared completely in drought on Wednesday, the state government said.

While much of Australia's southeast is struggling with tough dry weather, this year the drought conditions in Australia's most populous state have been the driest and most widespread since 1965.

The situation in New South Wales

  • 100 percent of the state is in drought and one quarter is considered to be in "intense drought"
  • Dry weather conditions are forecast to continue for the next three months
  • Farmers are struggling with crop failure, water shortages and sparse food for their animals

Coping with drought

What caused the drought: Drought is not uncommon in Australia, but this year the winter in eastern and southern Australia was drier than expected and did not provide much needed water for farm lands, leaving farmers battling crop failure, water shortages and very little food for their animals. The NSW Department of Primary Industries said less than 10 millimeters of rain was recorded in the western, north-west and central areas of NSW over the past month. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said that nationally, it was the driest July in Australia since 2002.

Who is affected: While the whole state has been declared in drought, the worst affected groups are the state's farmers and people living in regional communities. 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. In New South Wales state, agriculture contributes more than AU$15 billion (€9.6 billion, $11.1 billion) to the state's economy annually and employs more than 77,000 people. 

What's being done: On Sunday, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a AU$190-million (€121.4-million, US$141-million) relief package that would provide each struggling farming family with an assistance package of two payments of up to AU$12,000 dollars (€7,680, US$8,900). Farmers have been given permission to shoot kangaroos that are competing with their livestock for sparse pastures. 

law/rt (AP, AFP, dpa)

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