THE majority of New South Wales remains in drought despite average to above average rainfall over the past month, according to the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) State Seasonal Update for October.
DPI’s Leader of Climate Applications and Digital Agriculture, Dr Anthony Clark said the state’s farmers continued to face dry conditions.
“Mid-October rainfall provided significant easing of drought conditions along the coast and hinterland with parts of the Central Tablelands, Northern Tablelands and eastern Hunter showing strong signs of agronomic recovery with sustained pasture growth,” Dr Clark said.
“Unfortunately, however, the latest estimates of drought intensity place up to 30 per cent of the State in the Drought Affected category, 50 per cent in Drought and 19 per cent in Intense Drought.
“Areas of the Central West, North West and Western Region received limited rainfall, which has meant producers will continue their livestock feeding program and are faced with no summer crop options.”
DPI in collaboration with Geoscience Australia, has also undertaken the first ever comprehensive audit of farm dam levels across NSW.
Although the assessment method is still a prototype, it highlights that large parts of NSW have dam water surface area in the lowest 20 per cent of capacity, relative to the highest level recorded since January 2000.
“Considering the prospect of increasing evaporative losses over the warmer months, our assessment is that surface stock water supplies are currently critically low across much of NSW,” Dr Clark said.
“The Soil Water Index also indicates that the majority of NSW has extremely low levels of stored soil moisture, with the North Coast being the exception with an average level.
“DPI is calling on farmers to make their local observations available on a new App called, ‘NSWDPI Farm Tracker’. With more users, this will allow a more in-depth verification of the drought indicators for future State Seasonal Updates.”
The Bureau of Meteorology rainfall outlook for November to January indicates that parts of northern, southern and western NSW have an increased chance of drier than normal conditions.
The temperature outlook indicates that the majority of NSW has a greater than 65pc chance of warmer than average daytime and overnight temperatures.
In July, the NSW Government announced its $500 million Emergency Drought Relief Package.
The three major elements are:
- Approximately $190 million for Drought Transport Subsidies;
- Approximately $100 million for cutting the cost of farming fees and charges – by waiving Local Land Services rates, waiving fixed water charges in rural and regional areas, and waiving class one agricultural vehicle registration costs, among other initiatives, and
- $150 million to bolster the Farm Innovation Fund (FIF) infrastructure program.
The package also includes funding for:
- Counselling and mental health;
- Critical services in regional communities including transporting water and drought related road upgrades and repairs;
- Animal welfare and stock disposal.