Is 90 per cent of NSW drought affected and 30 per cent of the state in severe drought?

By James Lane and Louise Evans

The Statement

“We’ve still got 90 per cent of the state in some level of drought declaration and 30 per cent in severe drought”.

NSW Farmers Association CEO Peter Arkle. July 1, 2019.

The Analysis

NSW Farmers Association CEO Peter Arkle told Sky News TV that drought conditions had not improved a lot over the past 12 months and he was seeking support from the banks for farmers with no income who were getting council rates bills that had increased 10 per cent on the previous year. Mr Arkle said farmers were still doing it very tough having to sell a lot of stock and being unable to plant crops or suffering crop failure. [1] [2]

AAP FactCheck examined Mr Arkle’s claim “we’ve still got 90 per cent of the state in some level of drought declaration and 30 per cent in severe drought”.

NSW Farmers Association spokesperson told AAP FactCheck the source of Mr Arkle’s drought figures was the NSW Department of Primary Industries combined drought indicator. The indicator is an interactive tool which is updated daily and is used by the department to track seasonal conditions through five phases of drought. [3]

The drought indicator figures across NSW for July 1, 2019, the day Mr Arkle was interviewed, were: non drought: 0.8 per cent, recovering: 1.8 per cent, drought affected: 60.1 per cent, drought: 22.2 per cent and intense drought: 15.1 per cent. [3]

Based on these figures Mr Arkle was correct in claiming 90 per cent of NSW was suffering some level of drought. However, he was wrong in claiming 30 per cent was in severe/intense drought as the official figure is 15.1 per cent. The severe drought areas are mainly in the upper Hunter, Northern Tablelands, upper North West and the upper Western regions.

A NSW Farmers Association spokesperson told AAP FactCheck Mr Arkle may have been using old figures when he stated 30 per cent.

However, a year ago the percentage of NSW suffering severe drought was still 15 per cent. As of 30 June 2018, approximately 99 per cent of the state was covered by one of the three drought categories with up to 40 per cent drought affected, 44 per cent in drought and 15 per cent in intense drought. [4]

The Verdict

  • Ambiguous - It is not possible to determine the veracity of the statement, or it has an equal weighting of true and false elements.

The References

1.‘NSW Farmers Association looks to banks for relief for struggling farmers’. Sky News. July 1, 2019: https://www.skynews.com.au/details/_6054091809001

2. Farmers Struggle Through Drought. First Edition. Sky News. July 1, 2019: https://twitter.com/SkyNewsAust/status/1145476332022718464

3. ‘Combined Drought Indicator’, NSW Department of Primary Industries, NSW Government. July 1, 2019: https://edis.dpi.nsw.gov.au/

4. NSW State Seasonal Update - June 2018’, NSW Department of Primary Industries, NSW Government:https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/climate-and-emergencies/droughthub/information-and-resources/seasonal-conditions/ssu/june-2018

  • First published July 2, 2019 18:35 AEST