Australia drought 'far from over' despite widespread, significant rain

Graziers in eastern Australia have been battling a long-period of severe conditions that have turned green pastures brown.
Graziers in eastern Australia have been battling a long-period of severe conditions that have turned green pastures brown.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (AFP) - A devastating drought that has left Australian farmers struggling to stay afloat is set to persist despite widespread and significant rain last month, the authorities have said.

Graziers in eastern Australia have been battling a long-period of severe conditions that have turned green pastures brown and forced some to sell down or shoot their stock.

There was some welcome relief last month when "widespread (and)... significant rainfall" was recorded in parts of New South Wales, the state government said in its seasonal update late last Friday (Sept 7).

"While the rain has been welcomed and has provided a more positive outlook for field conditions in some regions, the drought is far from over," NSW Department of Primary Industries' agriculture climate specialist Anthony Clark said in a statement.

"We need more significant widespread rainfall in the coming weeks and months for agricultural recovery to commence and farmland to return to a productive state."

Mr Clark warned that if dry conditions continued instead, "we would see an increased intensification of the drought".

Some 99.8 per cent of the state remains in drought, officials added. In neighbouring Queensland, the government said last week that 57.4 per cent of the state remains drought-affected.

 
 
 
 

The update came as Major General Stephen Day - appointed to the newly created role of national drought coordinator - said his focus was to improve fund-raising efforts for farmers.

He told Sydney's Sydney Telegraph that there was a "lack of co-ordination and coherence to all that's going on".

"That means there are some gaps, that means there are some overlaps, that means there are some inefficiencies," he said ahead of an planned meeting with some of the major charities raising drought funds.

"I think if we can look at this as a team sport, we'll have a better effect."

While droughts are not uncommon in Australia, the length and severity of the dry conditions have placed enormous strain on farmers in the eastern states.