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Wairarapa drought committee formed


5 March 2008

Wairarapa drought committee formed

A meeting in Masterton last night formed a committee in response to the current drought, which the Greater Wellington Regional Council says is one of the worst in many decades.

Council Chair Fran Wilde, who convened the meeting, said that, based on Australian definitions, the present situation was a “serious drought” and that a concerted response was required to help the rural community in the short and medium term.

“The meeting discussed the impact of the drought on farms and the families who run them”, Wilde said. “There was general agreement that even if rain comes in the near future, the drought will continue for some time and the de-stocking that is occurring will have a major impact on future productivity. This will have a flow on effect into the wider community.

The meeting included representatives of farmers, farm advisers, local and central government agencies, together with local MP John Hayes, Masterton Mayor Garry Daniell, Carterton Mayor Gary McPhee and South Wairarapa Deputy-Mayor Viv Napier.

Regional Council staff tabled information showing that river flows, soil water and pasture cover were very low, with rainfall the second lowest in 45 years.
Anders Crofoot, Wairarapa President of Federated Farmers, was elected chair of the drought committee. He said that farmers were having a tough time and were surviving “at a huge cost”.

“Farmers need to look at what has worked for others, and a significant part of the job of the committee will be to let farmers know where they can find details of best practice”, he said.

The committee will also seek out and collate information on assistance that is available and will look at holding local meetings for farmers.
The Regional Council has agreed to put information on its web site and also to print and circulate information in the rural area of Wairarapa, along with newspaper advertising.

As well as discussing short term actions, the meeting discussed longer term issues that are impacting on farm viability and that have been exacerbated by the drought. These included tax, transport costs and irrigation.

ENDS

Wairarapa 2007/08 summer drought fact sheet

Rainfall

- Summer 2007/08 has been the driest since 1972/73 in most Wairarapa locations.
- Alloa (Featherston) had 104.5mm of rain, its third lowest summer rainfall on record and well below the average of 216mm. That follows a very dry 2007 in which it had only one month (October 2007) of above average rainfall - its 731mm annual rainfall in 2007 was the second driest on record.
- Tanawa Hut (NE Wairarapa) had 137.5mm of rain, compared to the average of 233mm.
- Bull Mound (in the Tararua ranges) had 491.5mm of rain, its lowest summer rainfall on record, and just over half the average of 904mm.
- Kaitoke Headworks had 205.6mm of rain – its second lowest after 204mm in 1972/73.

River flows
- Summer river flows in the Ruamahanga, Waingawa and Waiohine rivers were also among the lowest on record, on average only slightly higher than flows in 1978 and 1985.
Soil moisture
- Soil moisture content has been significantly below average since November 2007.

Summer rainfall – percentage of average for November to February

ENDS

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