The entire state of New South Wales has been declared in drought due to “unusually dry and warm” conditions throughout June, July and August.
The Department of Primary Industries said 61 per cent of NSW is in drought or intense drought, while the rest is drought affected.
Less than 10 millimetres of rain have been recorded over the past month in Western, North West and Central NSW. “This is tough, there isn’t a person in the state that isn’t hoping to see some rain for our farmers and regional communities,” said Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair.
These unfriendly conditions are expected to continue. “The forecast suggests an increase of drier than normal conditions for the next three months across the majority of NSW.”
A number of towns have been placed under water restrictions, limiting residents’ ability to wash clothes and shower.
BOM meteorologist Jane Golding said all parts of NSW usually receive some rain throughout the winter months, but this year is different. “It is unusually dry and also unusually warm which exacerbates the problems, so the warm temperatures dry out the soils even more.”
The state government has announced over $1 billion in drought relief measures, including waivers on farming costs, animal welfare support and transport subsidies. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also announced $12,000 grants for families affected by drought.
The planned freeway extension linking Sydney and Wollongong has been priced at $18 billion, about three times as much as the rail alternative.
Government documents seen by the ABC and Fairfax reveal that the F6 toll road’s 32-kilometre extension is also estimated to cost $1 billion more than WestConnex.
The toll road would extend from St Peters to Waterfall through the Royal National Park. The construction costs are estimated at $14.5 billion, while operation and maintenance costs are at $3.5 billion.
Roads Minister Melinda Pavey said the cost for the F6 is still tentative. “We’re still in the very early stages, so no decision has been made regarding the final alignment,” Pavey said. “There is no decision on final cost.”
NSW Greens transport spokesperson Mehreen Fahruqi described the $18 billion price as “madness”.
“$18 billion of taxpayer’s money for yet another toll road, potentially through a National Park, is just obscene.”
The New South Wales government has announced its plans to build a new hospital, three new Sydney motorways, double-deckers and additional bus services, just a week before the state budget arrives.
Next week’s budget will allocate a billion-dollar package as planning money for three new motorways. $21 million will be allocated for the M12, whereas the F6 Motorway and the M9 Outer Orbital will receive $15 million and $2.09 million respectively.
“We want every community to be a vibrant community – and a local roads project can make a world of difference,” Perrottet said. “Some of these will be the most important links in greater Western Sydney for getting home and doing business.”
Also in the budget is a $534 million allocation to buy a site in Tweed and build a 350-bed hospital with extra cardiac and cancer services. “We believe that whether you live in the north shore of Sydney or northern New South Wales, every community deserves access to high quality health care,” said Treasurer Dominic Perottet. The hospital is expected to be built after 5 years.
Finally, the budget also aims to purchase 176 new buses. 134 of them are to replace aging fleets, while the rest is to boost the overall bus numbers. Six of these new buses will be double-deckers, set to replace bendy buses. “It’s a far better way in terms of road space to better utilise the roads, the bus commuting,” said Transport Minister Andrew Constance. There will also be over 3,300 new services for metropolitan Sydney, western Sydney, the Hills District and south west Sydney.
Five greyhounds have been killed since last week, when NSW Premier Mike Baird backtracked on his decision to ban the racing.
Baird and deputy premier Troy Grant announced that a panel will report to the state government about reforming the sport and “providing the most stringent, safest racing environment to eliminate avoidable injury”.
Baird said that he and his government were “wrong” about the decision to close down the industry after three months stating that the ban was “the right thing to do”.
“I got it wrong, we got it wrong, the cabinet got it wrong and the government got it wrong,” Baird said.
Baird said his advisor on the industry closure, Dr John Keniry had said that “there is now a deep appetite for change, for reform in the industry… [the industry is] desperate to change.”
The decision to ban greyhound racing from July 1, 2017 was a result of special inquiry headed by Michael McHugh, which found that up to 68,000 greyhounds had been euthanised in the past 12 years due to slowness and incapability to continue competing.
Brenton Scott, chief executive of the NSW Greyhound Industry Racing Alliance said cases of track euthanasia “represents an extremely small 0.13 per cent of runner. However, the industry accepts that every possible step must be taken to avoid any track euthanasia going forward.”
Fairfax’s Sean Nicholls said the reversal is likely caused by oppositional media and industry campaign, as well as predictions that the Liberal Party might lose the November 12 Orange by-election.