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Australian farmers urged to leave drought-hit south for north

Earth News: Australia
A dam in western New South Wales suffers in the worst drought for a century. Photo / Reuters

March 12, 2007
HUMPTY DOO - When the heavens open over the savannah floodplains and billabongs of northern Australia, it seems like it will rain forever.

Great black storms march across the landscape, drenching the cattle ranches, national parks and Aboriginal reserves which make up Australia's "Top End".

Thousands of miles to the south, however, in the most populous states of New South Wales and Victoria, the fields are parched, livestock are dying and farmers face ruin as the worst drought in a century grinds on.

It is hardly surprising, then, that Australians are drawing a link between the barely populated, rain-soaked north and the intensively farmed, dry-as-dust south, where the mighty Murray and Darling rivers are being slowly bled to death.

This week a government taskforce will begin studying the prospects of encouraging Australia's farmers to bow to the harsh realities of drought and climate change, and head north.

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