This drought is unprecedented. What we know so far is that it is the worst on record. While some people are out saying we have seen it all before with the millennium drought, the statistics show we are in uncharted territory.
The biggest problem that effects our area in NSW is the record-low inflows into Burrendong Dam. Back during the previous drought, we can all remember the dam getting to critical low levels. However the difference between this one and last is that the inflows into the dam are practically non-existent.
Last time, there were at least small flows here and there that continued to top up the dam.
This time, with practically no inflows and reports that the underground water tables are dropping, means that this drought is the worst ever. There is certainly no need to panic and locals and tourists will still be able to have showers and wash, uninformed arguments that we should follow examples set back in the last drought and have only level 1 restrictions are reckless to say the least.
In my mind there will need to be a three-phased approach to this drought crisis.
In the short term, we have got to make sure our farmers and small business owners survive. It's high time we stop thinking about giving out more loans. People are already in enough debt without adding more to it. If we allow small businesses to simply go broke and close it will be much harder to get new small businesses to open when times are good. This also applies to farmers because we know once a farming family leaves the land it is very hard to get people back to the country.
In the medium term, governments needs to get serious about a proper regional taxation system that encourages growth as well as making easier for economic recovery. I have always thought that we need a zonal taxation system that encourages development in the bush.
A move by government to cut capital gains tax, stamp duty and payroll tax outside of the Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong metropolitan areas would hypercharge regional investment. This move would have the business community confident about investing in regional NSW.
Long term, governments needs to be really serious about infrastructure. The reality is that even the new dams announced by the federal government are only a drop in the ocean for some of the projects that need to be done to open up our country.
Massive water projects like pipelines, dams and water storage is obviously needed. Transport infrastructure like a proper expressway over the Blue Mountains, duel-lane Newell Highway and a faster train network is vital, and air services need appropriate investment. A bold government would require all government departments to justify why each and every one of their offices need to be located in the metropolitan area.
This drought is serious. But it is also a real opportunity for the community and our governments to totally rethink what sort of regions we want in Australia.