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", Fran 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.