Our purpose is to preserve New Zealand's whitewater resources and enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely.

The Adams Wilderness Area

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Background

The Department of Conservation is proposing two new wilderness areas on the West Coast. The proposed Adams wilderness area is of concern to kayakers with respect to the Perth, Upper Wanganui and Adams rivers. DoC have provided a useful background paper and a specific information pack on the Adams area which recognises the Perth and Upper Wanganui as world-class adventure kayaking sections.

The Adams Wilderness Area is the latest in a series of conservation estate management plans that have reduced the recreational opportunities for whitewater kayakers. Kayakers have already lost access to the Upper Landsborough (Hooker-Landsborough Wilderness Area) and the Karangarua (old airstrip at Cassel Flat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park), and arguably the Waipara (Olivine Wilderness Area), the best day-trip landing in the Karamea (above Roaring Lion, Tasman Wilderness Area), and air access was threatened during the drafting of the Kahurangi National Park Conservation Management Plan.

Implications for kayaker access

The Perth is a world-class whitewater run: Perth River trip report, British South Island Expedition - March 2000. The proposal affects access to the Perth above Scone Hut, the Adams River and the Upper Wanganui river:

Proposed Adams Wilderness Area
ProposalImpact
Access to the true-right bank of the Perth between Elizabeth Stream and Andrew Creek is in the proposed area. Need to ensure continued range of landing options on both banks.
Boundary of area appears approx 1-2km above Scone hut. Kayakers go 3km above Scone. Need boundary redrawn higher to allow continued access.
The Adams river is almost entirely inside the area. Need to redraw boundary to allow continued access. Low volume of visitors mean remote experience is not compromised.
The boundary of the area runs along the true-left bank of Upper Wanganui. Need to ensure continued range of landing options on both banks.
Poerua river inside the area. Extent of kayaking usage unknown.

The original 1985 Wilderness Policy is oriented around foot travel and neglects to take into account new recreational developments such as adventure (heli) kayaking. Activities such as tramping, climbing and skiing are largely unaffected by wilderness area restrictions, but modern kayaking is eliminated due to the restriction on mechanised access.

The Adams information pack claims positive consequences for recreationalists but this doesn't recognise the diminished opportunity for adventure kayaking. The statement "Use of the rivers included in the proposed wilderness area for kayaking and rafting would be unaffected if the wilderness area were created" is untrue in relation to the Adams and the boundary near the Perth. Even if access to the Upper Perth and Upper Wanganui is retained the loss of access to the Adams would be a permanent loss to current and future kayakers.

While there are many good reasons to have a wilderness area, the current proposals show a continued lack of recognition and understanding of kayaking as a back-country recreation. The boundaries need to be modified to ensure the recreational opportunity for current and future kayakers is maintained.

The Paparoa Wilderness Area proposal would eliminate air access to the Ohikanui, Ohikaiti, Te Wharau/Stony River and Rough rivers. I am not aware of any kayaking activity on these rivers.

The NZRCA submission is now online.

Submissions are due 10 May 2002 (Submission form (PDF,63k)).

On 2 August 2002, the Conservation Minister Sandra Lee announced the approval of the Adams Wilderness area with adjusted boundaries "in response to concerns raised in a number of the public submissions relating to access." A DoC spokesperson has said that access to the Perth has been adjusted slightly higher, and that repeat descents of the Adams will be possible (from the highest safe landing zone as advised by Jamie Scott). This is a good result. DoC have listened to submissions from paddlers and made adjustments, and the kayaking opportunities remain. See map (552k) for revised boundaries.

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