Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, entirely in drought

An aerial view of the cattle feeding operation on the property 'Toorawandi' owned by Coonabrabran farmer Ambrose Doolan

An aerial view of the cattle feeding operation on the property 'Toorawandi' owned by Coonabrabran farmer Ambrose Doolan

Government officials declared a drought Wednesday throughout all of the Australian state of New South Wales after the driest start to a year in five decades.

A dry winter has intensified what has been called the worst drought in living memory in parts of eastern Australia. It was officially listed as "100% in drought" on Wednesday.

The NSW Government has announced a $500million emergency drought relief package as the state suffers.

Farmers have told harrowing stories of failing crops, severe water shortages and being unable to feed livestock.

"There isn't a person in the state that isn't hoping to see some rain for our farmers and regional communities", said NSW Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair.

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More than half of neighbouring Queensland has also been hit, prompting Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister, to describe Australia as a "land of drought" at the weekend.

"The forecast suggests an increase of drier than normal conditions for the next three months across the majority of NSW but I want every farmer and community to know that we will stand with them through this challenging time and continue to make sure we have the right support available". The lack of food for animals has resulted in farmers being forced to ship in grain or hay from other parts of the country to keep sheep and cattle alive, spending thousands of extra dollars each week just to get by, while others have had to shoot starving animals.

"Anybody on the land that will make a phone call to the Department of Environment can get permission to shoot nearly whatever they want to shoot and it's unaudited and unchecked and that's our concern - animal welfare", Borda told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Frank McRae, chair of the Australian Fodder Industry Association, said the drought has left dire feeding conditions for the animals.

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