Bureau scientists predict dry end to drought year

BIG DRY: Crop farmer Neil Westcott near Parkes this week. Picture: Dean Lewins
BIG DRY: Crop farmer Neil Westcott near Parkes this week. Picture: Dean Lewins

As bushfires burn and farmers struggle to buy hay for livestock, there looks to be no relief on the horizon.

Estimates from the Bureau of Meteorology this week point to drought conditions intensifying and even heading further south across the Victorian border. 

The bureau says there is “double the normal chance”, or a 50 per cent chance of El Niño forming this year.

“El Niño during spring typically means below average rainfall in eastern and northern Australia while daytime temperatures are typically above average over southern Australia,” the bureau said.

The predictions come as hay is being transported from Western Australia to struggling farmers in NSW, and the state government has announced a raft of new emergency drought relief measures.

Bega MP Andrew Constance said he is “concerned about the potential for transport subsidies to result in artificial increases in freight costs, which can distort the market”.

However, he said the appointment of former NSW Farmers Association president Derek Schoen as the government’s freight watch integrity adviser will “ensure that every dollar of our drought package goes to helping our farmers, rather than boosting the profits of freight companies”.

“The state has experienced the driest lead in to winter and spring since 1982 and the forecasts point to a dry run into the end of the year,” Mr Constance said.

Ninety-one-year-old farmer Joe McBride said he’s seen “a few droughts” in his time, and said more research should be done around rainfall.

Mr McBride said ideas such as cloud seeding, and the development of technology to cool water molecules as it rises have been considered in the past.

“It was dry when we first moved here years ago,” he said.

“When there wasn’t much hay around we would just drop a few willow tree branches, and the cattle just came straight over and stripped it, they even ate the bark.

“You have to work out how to utilise the things against you for your own advantage.”