Farmers in outback Queensland welcome a state government assistance package of $20 million as they continue to pray for rain.
It’s been more than a year and a half since decent rain last fell on the farms around Longreach.
The vast properties are a pale dusty orange and the grass a bone-dry grey.
The dirt is scarred a darker brown where streams once ran and the dams are evaporating in the stinging heat.
The worst drought in decades covers two-thirds of the state and is spreading.
If 100 millimetres doesn’t fall on sheep farmer Sam Coxon’s property – which he calls Green Day – by February 28, then not enough grass will grow to see him through next season.
At the moment, he dumps supplies every couple of days to get the stock through, which can costs upwards of $35,000.
“If we don’t see any rain, most of this stock will have to go, and we will have to find something else to do,” he said.
“We are at the stage where we would keep our best 1000 ewes and feed them, but other than them, everything else would have to go.
“From the last drought to this drought we didn’t have enough time to get fat on them to take us through this one.”
Longreach and Barcaldine were drought-declared on Tuesday, joining 24 other councils.
Premier Campbell Newman travelled to Mr Coxon’s farm to announce $20 million in drought assistance, rental rebates and community events and training.
“We are here because we want other people across the state to understand the tough times that people are experiencing,” he said.
“Scenes here today of waterholes and dams drying up, of almost no feed in the paddocks and animals in many locations across the state which are dying or in poor condition.
“My heart goes out to people on the land, but that is not enough; they need a lot of rain and financial assistance.”
Ian Groves has been grazing on his Hortonvale property for 34 years and is upbeat it will rain in February, which is usually the month with the highest rainfall.
“One day it will change. You have to live in hope,” he told AAP.
“You wouldn’t live here if you didn’t live in hope.
“It is amazing how you get off the hook sometimes.
“You hang on.”
More councils are expected to be drought-declared in the coming weeks and months.
The state is pressing the federal government for more federal assistance.