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More local drought knowledge needed

Michael Condon, Mike Pritchard, Tuesday November 5, 2013 - 10:53 EDT
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The dry conditions are already impacting on livestock - ABC

More local knowledge should have been used to make the decisions earlier about the need for drought help.

An Upper Hunter farmer and shire councillor has joined the chorus of calls for assistance to drought affected farmers.

Merriwa sheep and cattle producer Ron Campbell says low interest loans are needed along with transport subsidies and fodder subsidies.

Mr Campbell said the government is taking the wrong approach to drought measures, he's calling for a return to local knowledge and less reliance on computer modelling, the criteria for making drought declaration.

On the issue of computer modelling and local knowledge, these are two areas that have been raised in recent discussions about the weather bureau's seasonal outlook for NSW.

It has come under some criticism.

The initial forecast was for a wetter than average spring but that did not eventuate.

Aaron Coutts Smith is a climatologist with the Bureau of Meteorology. He says the computer modelling is proving to be much more accurate than previous forecasting models but he says they can only talk in probabilities.

"A Six out of ten chance of a wetter than average season will still mean that four times out of ten, the season will be dry."

He says any decision maker, be it government or farmer has to make their own decisions, looking at a range of data, and based on the balance of probabilities.

He says the Bureau does use local weather information from all over the state in their forecasting but it is not possible to incorporate anecdotal information or non scientific information in their calculations.

Greg Seiler Managing Partner for Landmark at Bourke says many people in his area need help now.

He says low interest loans and income support are needed badly from the Federal Government and transport subsidies and fodder subsidies are needed also.

Greg Seiler says prior to the series of meeting with the state government delegation last week, landholders in the north west were feeling ignored.

The New South Wales Minister for Primary Industries is pushing for immediate financial assistance for drought-affected farmers when she meets with her federal counterpart, Barnaby Joyce.

Last week state minister Katrina Hodgkinson announced a suite of support measures to help struggling farmers in the NSW north-west prepare for drought.

But she admits landholders in those areas are caught in a difficult bureaucratic situation.

"One of the problems that we foresaw, when we were discussing this with the former Labor government, was what if we haven't got time before the next drought to really get drought preparedness up and established," she said.

"That's where we find ourselves now.

"We need need to be assisting people and I do recognise that they are in a dire situation."

Around Walgett, Brewarrina and Bourke, the dry run of seasons has been taking its toll and farmer Michael O'Brien says many people need help now.

He welcomes the state government help but says "it is now time for the Federal government to stop dragging the chain and provide financial assistance, like low interest loans and income support".

He says the old measures of drought assistance are what is needed right now.

Michael O'Brien says it is no surprise that NSW north-west needs help as it has been extremely dry for over a year with record low rainfall figures in some areas.


© ABC 2013

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