Farmers can see climate is rapidly changing

Farmers can see climate is rapidly changing

My property is on the Gwydir river in northern NSW. The Gwydir is a major inland perennial river within the Murray-Darling basin.

When there is adequate water flow, the Gwydir Wetlands support more breeding waterbirds than anywhere else in Australia. But the Gwydir is drying up. Ground around the river is so bare that any rain causes soil erosion. It washes manure and topsoil into the river and kills what is left in the river.

We did have a storm the other day: it put six inches into a waterhole on my property. The needle-tailed Catfish came to the top dead and sick. The Cod go to the bottom when they die and come up a few days later.

I was a climate change sceptic until 12 months ago, but something is clearly wrong. Rainfall patterns, drought, and more intense heatwaves - before you even mention the bushfires - something has been put out of twist.

People say there were big droughts 100 years ago, and there weren't so many cars or fossil fuel burning factories. But it is the speed that our climate is now changing that is obvious to anyone who works on the land.

In the eyes of politicians, the only things worth protecting are the coal mines. It's always about money. The wealthy, powerful people who call the shots with the politicians. Meanwhile, agriculture, tourism, wildlife and ordinary "quiet" Australians are left to suffer.

I am spending $20,000 a week to feed my remaining 1100 head of angus cattle and fine-wool merinos. It has cost $1.4m since the drought hit. I've paid a lot of money for rams and bulls that I might lose. It's the uncertainty of the future that is so hard to live with. I know I can't go on feeding through another dry winter.

If it rained tomorrow I would be right and ready to breed the current stock; but if I cut numbers in half now I won't have anything to go on with. In other droughts, I could send the stock away on agistment but there is nowhere to go because fires are everywhere from Western Australia to Queensland.

Kangaroos are doing it tough, too. They seem to symbolise our pain. I see them standing in the shade of a tree because they are exhausted and out of food and don't go back into the scrub. I saw roots scratched up and eaten and I thought it was pigs, but it is the kangaroos doing that. Every single thing is suffering.

The price we are paying for putting coal mines before everything else is too high. A sustainable future is our only hope of survival. Those in charge must wake up to reality.

Bill Doak is a NSW farmer