Big dry worrying for Wairarapa farmers

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Jamie Falloon, Wairarapa Wellington Federated Farmers president, said the past few years have presented some "seriously dry conditions". PHOTO/ANDREW BONALLACK
Jamie Falloon, Wairarapa Wellington Federated Farmers president, said the past few years have presented some "seriously dry conditions". PHOTO/ANDREW BONALLACK

Wairarapa farmers are fearful of worsening drought conditions in the region as unseasonal dry conditions continue into May.

In an interview with New Zealand Farmer's Weekly, Wairarapa Wellington Federated Farmers president Jamie Falloon said the past few years have presented some "seriously dry conditions, with farmers reporting rainfall statistics and conditions worse than the 1997-98 drought".

He said the situation was being monitored by the Ministry for Primary Industries and it could be at the stage of drought declaration.

"We are not that keen yet on going through any drought declaration process as most avenues of help are in place," he said.

"I just want to stress for those finding it tough to come forward and talk and know they are not alone in their challenges."

Much of the Wairarapa has been dry, with below average rainfall since 2014.

"In mid-March it looked like we might get out of it," Mr Falloon said. "We are used to farming a dry summer but into autumn now and no rain and it's getting pretty damn tough.

"If we get some rain in the next couple of weeks it will help but it's not just about rain. Water has become a widespread concern with dams going dry, rivers running low and no recharge in the ranges."

Sheep and beef farmer William Beetham, whose property is southeast of Masterton, said it is the driest the farm has been in the 150 years that his family have owned it. The nearby Wainuioru River is dry.

"Even the puddles have dried up. The family has never seen the river dry in 150 years," Mr Beetham told Farmer's Weekly.

The river is not under agricultural pressure because there is no irrigation or stock water drawn from it but there were now dead fish and eels, he said.

"That's a real indicator of how low the rainfall has been. We are now in the middle of summer again -- it's desert."

Greater Wellington Regional Council confirmed drought stress in Wairarapa was severe and had extended further south than the late 1990's event. Mr Falloon said farmers need to be aware that there is a challenge "but they are not alone". He said plans were afoot to kick in with some support events.

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