The Wairarapa Water Use Project group has engaged consultants to carry out exploratory work on a proposed large-scale irrigation project for drought-prone areas of the region.
It is proposed, under the scheme, to irrigate up to 30,000 hectares of the Wairarapa Valley, from Mount Bruce in the north to Lake Ferry in the south.
The chair of the project group, Fran Wilde, says the consultants will report on water availability and demand as well as potential storage sites and distribution options and to take into account environmental effects.
Ms Wilde says four major rivers, the Ruamahanga, Tauheranikau, Waingawa and Waiohine, are no longer being considered as water source options because of environmental concerns.
She says the group has a long list of storage sites in mind but they need to be whittled down in terms of management of environmental impacts and cost. She expects a short list to be completed by September 2012.
Ms Wilde says the group has applied for funding from the Government's new Irrigation Acceleration Fund, which is providing $35 million nationally over five years to develop water infrastructure in the primary sector.
She says the project would put an extra $500 million into the local economy and create up to 14,000 new jobs.