The devastating drought across Australia’s east has reached uncharted territory, with the weather bureau officially declaring it the Murray Darling Basin’s worst dry spell.
Bureau of Meteorologist climatologist David Jones said the drought across the vital river system was now worse than previously recorded.
“Our records only go back 120 years but in terms of the rainfall records it is the most severe,” he told a bureau seminar on climate.
Nationals frontbencher Mark Coulton, whose electorate of Parkes covers half of NSW, said dry conditions were combining with cold weather to further put livestock at risk.
“We are now probably into in an area where we haven’t been before,” he told AAP.
“It’s not universal obviously, the drought has been biting harder in some areas than others because some people have been in longer.”
Mr Coulton spent 30 years as a farmer and grazier, running cereal crops and beef with his wife.
“Hindsight’s a wonderful tool in farming,” he said.
He said producers in the electorate had made decisions not knowing what future weather might have in store.
“Different farms are in different circumstances … but it has been a real stress.”
The Nationals MP said feed bills had skyrocketed into the millions for some farmers as they spent on fodder to keep stock going.
Water supply is also becoming a critical issue across NSW and Queensland as towns run out of domestic supplies.
“A lot of my towns, without a relief from rain in the spring, will be in a fairly serious situation for water supply,” Mr Coulton said.
He said governments needed to look at short and long-term solutions, with urgent action and future measures both important.
Dubbo hosted a bush summit on Thursday, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Labor Anthony Albanese in town to address the event.
Mr Morrison said the drought was unrelenting.
“A drought measured in years, it’s taking its toll and wearing away even the strongest souls and strongest communities,” he said.
Mr Albanese said there was a tendency to fall back on Dorothea Mackellar’s famous reminder Australia was a land of droughts and flooding rains.
“But the old cycles are shifting and our country is becoming a land of worsening drought – there is no poetry in that,” the Labor leader said.