Drought in NSW

NSW Drought Strategy

The climate of NSW is variable and drought is an inevitable feature in our landscape, therefore it should be considered in the same light as other business risks.

The NSW Government is encouraging farmers to move away from their reliance on an emergency response. Planning for the long-term is the most effective way that farmers can prepare for drought and other downturns.

The Government is committed to working with industry and stakeholders to enhance farmers' drought preparedness and responses to drought will be aligned with the Inter-Governmental Agreement on Drought Policy Reform.

The $300 million NSW Drought Strategy was announced in February.  As part of the Strategy, a Drought Framework has been developed, which is delivered through six key areas.

Drought Framework

  • Finance - The Farm Innovation Fund will provide long-term low interest loans to help improve permanent on-farm infrastructure.
  • Skills and Training - The Farm Business Skills Professional Development Program which provides primary producers with access to vocational training and farm business planning.
  • Animal Welfare Assistance - Funding over five years to provide transport assistance for animal welfare and donated fodder within NSW.
  • Information - Including practical advice on seasonal conditions, pest and weed management and livestock management made available through Local Land Services and DPI.
  • Research and Development - $2.5 million to work with the Bureau of Meteorology to develop an enhanced network of weather stations across NSW. Work with the Commonwealth Government and farming communities to develop a commercial multi-peril insurance product for the cropping sector.
  • Wellbeing – The Rural Resilience Program and Rural Support Workers, and a range of services in the public, private and non-government sectors.

Key principles of the Drought Framework

  • Drought is an inevitable feature in our landscape, therefore it should be considered in the same light as other risks to farm businesses.
  • The NSW Government will maintain a suite of existing and new measures to assist farmers build their businesses.
  • The NSW Drought Strategy encourages primary producers to plan ahead in normal conditions to prepare and build flexibility to deal with adverse conditions.
  • A whole-of-government response to drought has been introduced to ensure coordination of service delivery to the broader rural community.
  • The NSW Government will work with industry and stakeholders to enhance farmers' drought preparedness
  • NSW Government responses to drought will complement the Commonwealth assistance measures, and will be aligned with the Intergovernmental Agreement on Drought Program Reform.

Regional Assistance Advisory Committee (RAAC)

The Regional Assistance Advisory Committee (RAAC) is an independent body that provides advice to the NSW Government on drought.

The Chair of the Drought Interagency Working Group will provide guidance to the RAAC on how to collect information and when to initiate consultation to understand the impact of climate conditions on communities.

The RAAC will provide a balance of views from farmers and non-government organisations on climate related issues affecting regional NSW.

A new RAAC membership structure and Terms of Reference has been put into place to redefine and strengthen the role of the RAAC.

NSW Drought Interagency Working Group

The NSW Drought Interagency Working Group ensures a whole-of-government approach is taken to drought policy and the implementation of the NSW Drought Strategy.

The working group draws on a range of regional networks to:

  • Monitor the drought situation in NSW and the climatic conditions that contribute to drought based on advice provided by the Regional Assistance Advisory Committee.
  • Review and provide advice on the policy response to deteriorating seasonal conditions and requests for drought assistance.
  • Ensure proposed drought assistance measures are consistent with the Intergovernmental Agreement on National Drought Program Reform (IGA) and the IPART drought assistance evaluation framework (once completed).
  • Monitor and ensure delivery of the NSW Drought Strategy.

The working group meets every two months or as required, and comprises representatives from the:

  • NSW Department of Industry
  • NSW Treasury
  • NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet
  • Family and Community Services
  • NSW Health
  • Local Land Services
  • NSW Department of Education
  • Land and Water Commissioner

The working group is chaired by the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

History of drought

Drought has been a constant and inevitable feature (JPG, 825.1 KB) of the NSW landscape.

During the second half of the 19th century increased population and droughts led to increasing the intensity of farming and attempts to 'drought proof' agriculture through the expansion of irrigation.

Two of the most significant droughts in NSW in the last two centuries include the Federation Drought and the Millennium Drought.

  • The Federation Drought was experienced from 1895-1903 and considered one of the worst droughts in history.
  • The Millennium Drought was experienced across NSW from 2001 until 2010.