Farmers in Australia’s most populous state have been given enhanced authority to shoot kangaroos because of the drought.
The conditions in New South Wales state this year have been the driest and most widespread since 1965.
The conditions mean kangaroos have been competing with livestock for sparse pasture during the intensely dry spell.
The state government said on Wednesday that 100% of New South Wales’ land area of more than 309,000 square miles was now in drought.
The government has also lifted the number of kangaroos that farmers are allowed to shoot and reduced bureaucratic red tape facing landholders applying for permission to shoot.
Australia’s prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has unveiled a package of measures to assist farmers coping with the conditions.
New South Wales primary industries minister Niall Blair said farmers were enduring one of the driest Southern Hemisphere winters on record.
“This is tough. There isn’t a person in the state that isn’t hoping to see some rain for our farmers and regional communities,” Mr Blair said in a statement.
The requirement to tag dead kangaroos to keep a tally of the number shot across the state had been dispensed with.
“Many farmers are taking livestock off their paddocks, only to then see kangaroos move in and take whatever is left,” Mr Blair said.
“If we don’t manage this situation, we will start to see tens of thousands of kangaroos starving and suffering, ultimately leading to a major animal welfare crisis,” he added.
But Ray Borda, president of the Kangaroo Industries Association of Australia, which represents commercial shooters who hunt kangaroos for meat and leather, raised animal welfare concerns about the regulation changes.
“Anybody on the land that will make a phone call to the Department of Environment can get permission to shoot almost whatever they want to shoot and it’s unaudited and unchecked and that’s our concern — animal welfare,” Mr Borda told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
The government would have been better off subsidising professional shooters to reduce kangaroo numbers more humanely, he said.
“We see this as probably the worst possible outcome for the kangaroo, but I’ve got to emphasise we do understand the plight that farmers are in,” Mr Borda said.