What a glorious feeling,
We're happy again!
Here's tonight's news bulletin:
|20:50 AEST Fri 21 Feb 2003|
|Australia rejoices as rain returns |
Country Australia welcomed back an old friend - rain.
After 12 dry, hot and rainless months, good falls were recorded through South Australia, Victoria and NSW, with hopes the rain would head north into Queensland overnight.
But farmers warned that although useful, more rain was needed to break the back of the nation's worst drought in a century.
Some of the best falls were in central and southern NSW, with towns such as Cowra (47mm), Cootamundra (31mm), Tamworth (27mm) and Inverell (26mm) all receiving good rain.
Some parts of Canberra, which was facing a tightening of its water restrictions, received 56mm between 9am and 3pm.
In parts of northern Victoria, some areas have received almost 100mm since the heavens opened on Thursday.
In south-western Queensland, Birdsville farmer David Brook, whose property abuts the South Australian border and the Simpson Desert, said the rain could not have come at a better time.
After 35mm earlier in the week, the area that averages just 160mm a year got another 5.5mm.
Mr Brook said farmers had been increasingly concerned about the dry, as the past two years had delivered just 70mm.
"In the last two days we've got two-thirds of the rain that we've had the past two years," he said.
"People were really starting to get down as it looked like we were going into our third dry year, so there are a fair few smiles about the place."
NSW Farmers Association president Mal Peters said although the rain was good, more was needed especially with warm temperatures expected over the next two months.
He said without that follow-up rain, the coming winter crop could again be well down.
But Mr Peters said the rain had boosted morale amongst many rural communities that had almost given up on seeing another downpour.
"Best of all, it's reminded farmers that it does know how to rain and lifted flagging spirits," he said.
President of Queensland rural lobby group AgForce, Larry Acton, said his organisation would be submitting more claims for Exceptional Circumstances (EC) federal drought assistance.
He said Queensland farmers were just hoping the rain pushed further north.
"If we don't get some good rain soon then there will be many farmers in Queensland in a desperate situation," he said.
Prime Minister John Howard said although it was too early to tell whether the drought had officially broken, the rain was of enormous benefit to farmers.
"This is the best news this country has had for a couple of years," Mr Howard told reporters.
"Nobody should underestimate the human and economic cost of it.
"The breaking of the drought if it occurs will be of enormous benefit to our country."
Opposition environment spokesman Kelvin Thomson said while the rain was good, Australians should make better use of the nation's water supplies, both in rural areas and in cities.