WE are in the middle of a historic drought. There’s been a bit of rain but the hardship is expected to continue.
Farm animals will continue to die as emergency feeding operations struggle on. Small towns where farming families work and shop are likely to see more boarded premises and quiet streets.
It will rain again, and there will be a turn-around but predictions are for warmer, drier conditions in the decades ahead. As we face this future, we need to do all we can to ensure that we have resilient landscapes capable of withstanding harsher conditions.
This means we must resist the temptation to implement short-term “solutions” that will make the situation worse in the long run.
The Berejiklian government told Channel 7 this week that her government was looking into a range of “possibilities” for drought relief including opening up national parks for grazing and feed and allowing access to water reserves.
It comes as the government has supported brumbies in National Parks, is giving succour to a big push to commercialise Mount Canobolas with more than 60 kilometres of mountain bike tracks and the slashing of National Parks staff through waves of restructuring and redundancies.
On Wednesday, the government announced significant loosening of licensing requirements needed to shoot kangaroos on private property.
The licences, which are administered by National Parks and Wildlife, will be easier to get and will allow greater numbers can be shot. Shot ’roos will no longer have to be tagged.
Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair framed these changes as a direct response to the current drought: “I know both farmers and our regional communities are under immense pressure right now but I hope these changes are one way the NSW Government can assist in reducing some of the burden of drought.”
But what about after the drought? Will the old licensing regime – which, contrary to popular perception, actually allowed a lot of ’roo shooting on private property - return? It is highly unlikely.
Helping farmers and small towns through the drought is a no-brainer. But in the long run it will help neither if we sell off that other “farm” - the rich repository of biodiversity in our national parks.
They’re an investment that, once gone, can never be retrieved.