DRAINED BY THE DROUGHT
By LEE McDOUGALL
COFFS HARBOUR'S Brooke George has a message for residents of Sydney and those living in the 46 per cent of the State now in drought: 'It's hard, but it does end.'
While the Coffs Coast is fortunate to be in the 19.8 per cent of the State receiving its annual rainfall, many residents like Mrs George remember all too well our recent drought. Locals are also paying the price for the current drought as prices for vegetables grown in parched areas of the State continue to rise.
Mrs George and her husband, Phil, moved into their new home during 2002, when Coffs Harbour was placed on strict Level 5 water restrictions.
"We had just moved in and I was pregnant and using buckets to water the garden," Mrs George said.
"The drought is hard. Sydney residents are now learning what we went through. It is hard and while it's happening you don't think it is going to end, but it does end."
Mrs George is a keen gardener and has noticed a big difference in the garden this summer.
"The difference now is that plants are growing metres instead of inches," Mrs George.
"It's also nice to come to the beach and be able to have showers before getting in the car to go home."
Yet, while our gardens are growing and we are able to again enjoy the luxuries decent rainfall provides, the drought gripping the rest of the State is starting to have a local impact.
While early estimates for this year's winter crops are up 20 per cent compared with last year's figures, the forecasts are reliant on decent rainfall being received.
"March rains in the northern part of the State have helped lift confidence in that region's winter crop outlook," NSW Minister for Primary Industries Ian Macdonald said.
"However, many other areas of NSW have not had a decent downpour for the past few months. Some farmers are already taking a punt and planting dry, or planting in areas with marginal moisture in the hopes of a seasonal break."
Mrs George said she had begun to notice an increase cost in the weekly grocery bill due to the ongoing drought gripping the State, an opinion echoed by Mother Nature's Fruit and Vegetables owner, Leo Cali.
Mr Cali said fruit and vegetable production relied enormously on the real Mother Nature, who had not been too kind in recent years.
"We are starting to see an increase (in prices)," Mr Cali said.
"Fruit is not so bad but with vegetables it is across the board. Beans, cabbage, red capsicums, cauliflower, zucchini have all gone up.
"If we don't get any rain in the near future in the growing areas then it is only going to get a lot worse."