Rangitata WCO Jonathan Hunt evidence, 2001
4.1.1 "The 1991 River Use Survey (RUS) was initiated by the NZCA [now the NZRCA] in recognition of the need for up-to-date information on river usage by NZCA members. The objectives of the RUS were (1) to measure the relative importance of New Zealand rivers to NZCA members; (2) to measure the usage of New Zealand rivers by NZCA members; and (3) to develop a database for future advocacy of New Zealand rivers.
4.1.2 The survey was implemented via a questionnaire distributed to affiliated member clubs throughout the country, and hence to individual NZCA members. The key item of this questionnaire was a table listing 200 river sections, chosen after consultation with each club and grouped by geographical region, with a matrix of data columns against each river for respondents to complete as appropriate. The full questionnaire took the form of an 11-page booklet, including a covering letter explaining the purpose of the survey, a list of club contacts, and a detailed set of instructions and guidelines" (Unwin, 1995). [Appendix D] Appendix D: 1991 River Use Survey questionnaire not online.
4.1.3 Many rivers, including the Rangitata River, provide differing canoeing opportunities in different reaches [or sections]. Where appropriate, these reaches were listed separately in the RUS questionnaire.
4.1.4 "Respondents were asked to identify any river sections which they had paddled, and to provide the following information for these rivers: the total number of canoeing trips made to the river; the importance of the section to them as a canoeist, on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest); and the travel time, scenic beauty, wilderness feeling, and degree of canoeing challenge, also rated on a 1-5 scale. To maximise consistency between respondents, guidelines detailing the characteristics associated with each 1 to 5 grade were included with the survey instructions, so as to establish a clearly delineated hierarchy of responses for each attribute" (Unwin, 1995). A copy of the assessment scale used in the RUS questionnaire is included with this evidence as Appendix A, and the entire survey questionnaire is reproduced in Appendix D. Appendix D: 1991 River Use Survey questionnaire not online
4.1.5 "A total of 604 replies were received from whitewater paddlers. This represents approximately 50% of the affiliated NZCA club members who participate in whitewater paddling. Collectively, these respondents provided 9,788 assessments of individual rivers, representing a total of over 35,000 paddling trips" (Unwin, 1995).
4.2.1 The results for the Rangitata Gorge are shown in Table 1.
Table 1: Results for Rangitata Gorge (1=lowest, 5=highest)
|Attribute||Mean (1-5)||Median (1-5)||Description of relevant ratings|
|Importance||4.08||5||"Important: canoeing this river provides an experience exceeded by few other rivers." (4) or "Extremely important; this river offers a unique canoeing experience." (5)|
|Travel time||3.15||3||"Moderately close: suitable for a long day-trip, or an overnight trip from home." (3)|
|Scenic beauty||3.16||3||"Attractive: scenic appeal is significant, but generally derived from local features such as bankside vegetation and the nature of the river environs rather than large scale grandeur." (3)|
|Wilderness feeling||3.19||3||"Some wilderness feeling: river environment may be modified , but [a] canoeist is essentially isolated from immediate human activity. Roads generally reachable from river but may involve some rough scrambling." (3)|
|Canoeing challenge||4.12||5||"A challenging canoe trip which requires full use of my canoeing skills without actually extending them," (4) or "A very challenging trip, which I would only attempt when confident of paddling at my best. The limit of what I feel to be within my canoeing ability." (5)|
4.2.2 The Rangitata Gorge ranks 4th nationally for degree of canoeing challenge. This does not make it the fourth most difficult in terms of the absolute scale of International Scale of Canoeing Difficulty (refer Appendix B). Rather, degree of canoeing challenge is relative to the abilities of the individual kayaker at the time. For a section rated class III on the International Scale, a beginner would rate the degree of canoeing challenge as high, whereas a more expert kayaker would rate the degree of canoeing challenge for the same section as low.
4.2.3 The high ranking for degree of canoeing challenge shows that the Rangitata Gorge is an important river because it offers many people their first taste of class IV-V water. It is a key resource in the progression of individual kayakers as they develop the skills to negotiate class V water. As Graham Charles writes, the Rangitata Gorge "is a legendary Canterbury test piece" (Charles, 1999, p234).
4.2.4 The overall mean importance for the Rangitata Gorge is 4.08 ("Important") which ranks the Rangitata Gorge 20th out of the 200 rivers in the 1991 survey (ie. in the top 10%). Its rating of 4.08 translates to "Important: this river provides an experience exceeded by few other rivers." It is the most important section in Canterbury, rating slightly more important than the Hurunui (3.93).
4.2.5 In Figure 1, where the relationship between the overall importance versus degree of canoeing challenge is shown for all data, the Rangitata Gorge is represented by the solid dot. Most points are scattered along a well-defined line, the two main exceptions (the two outliers high on the left hand side, indicating a highly valued but technically easy river) correspond to the Whanganui. The R2 value of 0.757 is a measure of the extent to which variation in overall importance is related to canoeing challenge. Specifically, 75.7% of this variation is associated directly with variation in canoeing challenge.
4.2.6 Thus, overall importance is closely linked to degree of canoeing challenge, over and above other attributes such as scenic beauty and wilderness feeling. This should be expected: "whitewater" kayakers are keen to kayak "whitewater." In some cases (like the Karamea), wild and scenic values occur with significant whitewater features. In the case of the Rangitata Gorge, the whitewater is more significant than the scenic factor.
4.2.7 The River Survey also assessed river sections based on Perceived Importance, assigned by kayakers who have yet to paddle a particular section. The Rangitata scored a high 4.33 "Important". This is the 'reputation' of the river, and shows how many kayakers aspire to kayak the Rangitata Gorge.
4.2.8 The data from the River Use Survey provide two independent measures of "reputation": (1) the number of respondents who identified any given river (i.e. the more the better), and the average rating given by these respondents (i.e. the higher the better). These are moderately correlated (Figure 2), with the most highly valued rivers scoring highly on both scales.
4.2.9 The Rangitata Gorge lies well towards the top end (indicated by the solid dot), closely grouped with the Motu, Shotover, Clarence, Mohaka, Karamea, and Whanganui. Its actual rank nationally is 6th in terms of numbers, and 9th in terms of rating. It is significant that the Motu and Shotover are protected via Water Conservation Orders. The Karamea and Whanganui are protected by Kahurangi and Whanganui National Parks respectively. A WCO has been applied for on the Mohaka, and various stakeholders are considering applying for a Water Conservation Order on the Clarence river.
4.3.1 The results for the Waikari Station (Klondyke) to Peel Forest section are show in Table 2.
Table 2: Results for Waikari Station (Klondyke) to Peel Forest (1=lowest, 5=highest)
|Attribute||Mean (1-5)||Median (1-5)||Description of relevant ratings|
|Importance||3.33||3||"Moderately important; a river with some unique features, although comparable alternatives exist elsewhere. (3)|
|Travel time||3.02||2||"Moderately close: suitable for a long day-trip, or an overnight trip from home." (3) or "Close; a comfortable day-trip from home" (2).|
|Scenic beauty||2.78||3||"Attractive: scenic appeal is significant, but generally derived from local features such as bankside vegetation and the nature of the river environs rather than large scale grandeur." (3)|
|Wilderness feeling||2.51||2||"Some wilderness feeling: river environment may be modified , but [a] canoeist is essentially isolated from immediate human activity. Roads generally reachable from river but may involve some rough scrambling." (3) or "Little wilderness feeling; roads/human activity readily accessible from river, even if not directly visible. River environment shows obvious signs of modification." (2)|
|Canoeing challenge||2.51||2||"Rapids require little concentration to negotiate, but satisfying play spots can be found; mainly a social occasion, but always provides an enjoyable trip." (2)|
4.3.2 The section is a scenic, reasonably long class II journey that is very good for beginner to intermediate kayakers. Regular University of Canterbury Canoe Club (UCCC) club trips used this section. Rapids tend to be shingle chutes with a possible wave train in the main flow and eddies to each side. It is a straight-forward environment to manage groups, teach basic river running, balance, eddy turns and strokes.
4.3.3 In the 1991 River Use Survey, the section to Peel Forest averaged 3.33 in importance This is intermediate between a ranking of (3) "Moderately important: a river with some unique features, although comparable alternatives exist elsewhere" and (4) "Important: canoeing this river provides an experience exceeded by few other rivers."
4.3.4 Other sections of generally similar difficulty (class I through II+) and their importance are shown in Table 3. Sections on the Shotover, Whanganui and Buller are all protected, either through Water Conservation Orders or inclusion in a National Park. Relative to similar sections in Canterbury, the Waikari Station (Klondyke) to Peel Forest section rates slightly less than the Upper Hurunui and Waimakiriri Gorge, but higher than the Lower Waiau, Rakaia and Lower Hurunui.
Table 3: Class II or easier sections ranked by importance
|River & Section||Id||Importance|
|Upper Shotover (to Deep Creek)||2421||4.03|
|Whanganui: Retaruke to Pipiriki||1413||3.88|
|Buller: Owen River to Murchison (Doctor's Creek)||2115||3.80|
|Upper Hurunui (to South Branch)||2527||3.61|
|Rangitaiki: Aniwhenua to Matahina||1815||3.37|
|Rangitikei: Pukeokahu to Utiku||1429||3.36|
|Rangitata: Waikari Station (Klondyke) to Peel Forest||2520||3.33|
|Lower Waiau (Hanmer Gorge to Leslie Hills)||2531||3.25|
|Tongariro: Boulder Reach to Lake Taupo||1437||3.07|
|Lower Hurunui: SH7 to SH1||2529||2.57|
5.1 The NZCA River Use Survey figures date from 1991; some changes in recreation values have occurred since the Egarr and Egarr survey in 1981. As techniques and equipment have developed, the "top-end" of the kayaking recreational opportunity has expanded. Expert local and overseas kayakers are now attracted to the challenging and beautiful rivers of the West Coast. The most challenging rivers undertaken by experts are now helicopter-accessed, wilderness runs down steep West Coast creeks (such as the Arahura, Perth, Upper Whitcombe, Turnbull and so on).
5.2 In 1981, Egarr & Egarr regarded the Rangitata Gorge as for "extremely skilled canoeists" and "the goal for a South Island canoeist's career" (p104). Up to that time only the sport's "gurus" would have descended the Rangitata Gorge. Now improved techniques and better equipment and a slightly easier run (due to rockfall) mean that the Rangitata Gorge is utilised by many more kayakers than just the elite, but the Gorge is still a significant challenge and a milestone in any whitewater kayaker's career.
Table 4: Egarr and 1991 RUS Importance ratings.
|Egarr Recreational Value||NZCA RUS Importance||Value|
|Insignificant||Little or no importance: plenty of other opportunities||1|
|Low||Minor importance; other rivers similar||2|
|Intermediate||Moderately important; some unique features||3|
|High||Important; experience exceeded by few other rivers||4|
|Exceptional||Extremely important; unique||5|
5.3 Egarr & Egarr (1981) assigned a Recreational value of "High" to the Rangitata Gorge (p105) and in the RUS the mean Importance was 4.08 (median of 5); the Rangitata Gorge has maintained its importance for the last 20 years.
5.4 Egarr & Egarr assigned the Rangitata Gorge a Scenic Value of "Impressive," whereas the RUS average ratings for scenic beauty and wilderness feeling were mid-range. One interpretation is that since 1981 helicopter access has opened up West Coast rivers featuring pristine bush, clear water and spectacular mountain vistas, and the Rangitata's scenic beauty and wilderness feel have been ranked in comparison.
5.5 Egarr & Egarr gave the Waikari Station (Klondyke) to Peel Forest section a Recreational value of "Exceptional" and a Scenic value of "High". The recreational value has declined since 1981 probably due to the following factors:
- the lack of obstacles or steep drops suited the long, fibreglass canoes used in the 70's and early 80's.
- the improved equipment and instruction techniques mean kayakers progress beyond class II water quicker than before.
- the advent of multisport and the focus of racers on rivers like the Waimakariri (used for the Coast-to-Coast).
6.1 The Rangitata Gorge is vitally important to Canterbury kayakers, who make up half of the New Zealand paddlers using the river. The Rangitata Gorge is the most difficult section in Canterbury (in terms of the international scale). The only Canterbury sections that approach similar difficulty are the Okuku and Upper Waiau, both of which are difficult to access and only have sufficient flow during a few days or weeks of the year.
6.2 The Narrows of the Upper Waiau are similar in difficulty, but only consist of a couple of drops, whereas the Rangitata has at least six named rapids. The Rangitata has a sequence of significant rapids and features including Glacier, Pencil Sharpener, Tsunami, Rooster Tail (including Pig's Trough), Mousetrap, The Pinch, Arlene's Hole, Hell's Gate and The Slot. The extent of whitewater is greater than many other rivers that peak at a similar grade. For example, Citroen rapid on the Kawarau is of similar objective difficulty but consists of a single rapid. The Hooker River is also of similar objective difficulty, but is much further from population centres, requires a significant carry to the put-in, and is the water is cold enough to break kayaks.
6.3 The reasons that make the Rangitata important in Canterbury extend to make it important throughout New Zealand. Graham Charles (1999, p291) lists 32 kayaking sections nationally in the IV-V range of difficulty (refer Appendix C). Of these 26 are in the South Island. While this may sound like a significant recreational resource, many (11) are only accessible by helicopter or a significant carry (7) that restricts the numbers of kayakers. Only 8 are accessible by motor vehicle.
6.4 Another restriction on the available recreational opportunity is that many of these rivers require a precise flow range (often only available after rain in a specific catchment). About half of the South Island sections are usually paddleable during the entire kayaking season (Spring, Summer and Autumn). The Rangitata Gorge is one of only five South Island sections in the IV-V range that combine ease of access with viable flows throughout the season; the other sections are Citroen on the Kawarau, the Marian Creek run on the Hollyford, the Shotover Gorge and the Fox River. The Rangitata Gorge ranks above most of these sections in significant aspects:
- 6.4.1. The Rangitata Gorge has more whitewater than Citroen (which is effectively a single rapid).
- 6.4.2 The glacial flows make the Fox unpleasant for playing (and inhibits any instruction possibilities). A swim or entrapment here would be very serious.
- 6.4.3 Marian Creek has additional danger due to jammed logs, and is very far from population centres (In the 1991 RUS it averaged 4.4 for travel time, which is "Distant or Very Distant" for most kayakers).
- 6.4.4 The Rangitata Gorge is in general more difficult than the whitewater in the Shotover Gorge; both have a series of difficult rapids. The Rangitata Gorge tends to higher flows, and has a "big water" feel which is less common in New Zealand, and of significant value in preparing New Zealand kayakers for tackling the rivers available internationally. A Christchurch group recently ran the Rangitata Gorge as training before taking oar-rafts on the Grand Canyon run of the Colorado River in the USA. Notably, the recreational amenity of the Shotover Gorge is protected through incorporation in the Kawarau Conservation Order (1997).
6.5 NZ has relatively little road-accessible class IV kayaking, compared to (say) California (let alone the rest of the USA). In the South Island it is rare to have a section that contains rapids up to IV+ in difficulty without also containing a lot of class V; the more serious rivers are less suitable as opportunities to develop skills, since they tend to be remote and consequences of any error more serious. In many cases, it is not feasible to portage the class V rapids, whereas the Rangitata offers straight-forward portaging, allowing kayakers to "pick and choose" their rapids depending on their skills, the flow, their confidence, and so on.
6.6 It is vital to have a selection of rivers at each band of difficulty so that kayakers can develop their skills in a natural progression. If there is a gap in available class IV sections, it is very difficult to progress from kayaking on class III water to taking on class V. Since sections like the Cromwell Gap (on the Clutha) and Sargoods Weir (on the Kawarau) have been lost to kayakers (drowned beneath Lake Dunstan) sections like the Rangitata Gorge have greater value.
6.7 The Waikari Station (Klondyke) to Peel Forest section is important to Canterbury, featuring reasonable flows for most of the season (though it gets "boney" during summer), straight-forward access, and suitability for teaching. It is well utilised, ranking 21st out of the 200 sections in the 1991 River Use Survey for paddler visits.
6.8 The Rangitata Gorge is a nationally significant whitewater amenity, and the Waikari Station (Klondyke) to Peel Forest section is heavily used. Combined they represent a valuable resource for existing and future generations, worthy of protection from additional human interference.
Egarr, G. D. (1995), New Zealand's South Island Rivers: A guide for canoeists, rafters and kayakers. Nelson: Nikau Press.
Egarr, G. D, and Egarr, J. L. (1981). New Zealand Recreational River Survey. Part III: South Island Rivers. Wellington: NZCA/National Water and Soil Conservation Organisation.
Unwin, M. J. (1995). Brief of evidence of Martin John Unwin: in the matter of an inquiry into the Draft National Water Conservation (Buller River) Order 1989.
From p3 of the NZCA River Survey questionnaire:
WHAT SECTIONS ARE APPLICABLE TO ME?
Section One [to be completed by all N.Z.C.A members]
Please answer all questions in this section, regardless of whether or not you paddle rivers. Your answers will give us basic profile data on the membership of NZCA.
Section Two (to be completed by all river paddlers)
In this section, we would like you to identify all the rivers you have paddled, and to think about how each river appeals to you as a canoeist. On the following pages, we have listed 200 rivers (or sections of rivers) used for river canoeing. For any of these rivers that you have canoed, please fill in the following information.
Column 1: Total number of canoeing trips on this river.
This is the total number of river trips you have done on this river since you started canoeing/kayaking. If you have difficulty remembering exactly how often you have used a river an approximation will do.
Column 2: Importance of the river to you as a canoeist/kayaker.
We would like you to give the river a rating, from 1 [least important) to 5 most important], depending on how you, as a canoeist, feel about this river. Base your rating on the following scale:
- Little or no importance; plenty of other rivers provide similar canoeing canoeing opportunities.
- Minor importance: other rivers provide similar canoeing opportunities.
- Moderately important; a river with some unique features, although comparable alternatives exist elsewhere.
- Important; canoeing this river provides an experience exceeded by few other rivers.
- Extremely Important; this river offers a unique canoeing experience.
Column 3: Attributes of the rivers.
We would now like you to consider four attributes of each river in more detail. These are trave/ time; scenic beauty; wilderness feeling; and the degree of canoeing challenge. As with column 2, we want your personal assessment of each factor, expresses [sic] on a 1 to 5 scale. Base your rating for each factor on the following scales:
Column 3 [a] Travel Time (closeness to where you lived when you paddled the river)
- Very close; suitable for a part-day trip from home
- Close; a comfortable day-trip from home.
- Moderately close; suitable for a long day-trip, or an overnight trip from home.
- Distant; involves a full weekend or long weekend trip from home.
- Very distant; would only be canoed during an extended trip involving four of more days away from home.
Column 3[b]:Scenic Beauty.
This refers to the beauty of the river, riverbanks, and the surrounding countryside. Score this according to your opinion of the scenic beauty on a scale of 1 to 5.
- Not attractive; river environs and surrounding country generally uninspiring, river water may be dirty or discoloured.
- Moderately attractive; some local features of scenic interest, mixed with less attractive sections.
- Attractive; scenic appeal is significant, but generally derived from local features such as bankside vegetation and the nature of the river environs rather than large scale grandeur.
- Very attractive; river environs scenic and sometimes spectacular. Surrounding country provides striking views.
- Inspiring; scenery spectacular and varied. Large scale vistas [e.g mountains/bush/open country), and/or unique and striking river environs (e.g. rock formations, gorges, overhanging vegetation, deep and clear pools, rapids.
Column 3 [c] Wilderness feeling
This refers to the feeling of wilderness for you at river level.
- No wilderness feeling; road traffic or other human activity generally visible/audible from river. Highly modified river environment.
- Little wilderness feeling; roads/human activity readily accessible from river, even if not directly visible. River environment shows obvious signs of modification.
- Some wilderness feeling; river environment may be modified, but canoeist is essentially isolated from immediate human activity. Roads generally reachable from river, but may involve some rough scrambling.
- Strong wilderness feeling; largely unmodified environment, with very limited access to any form of roading. Walking out from river feasible, but could take up to a day.
- Exceptional wilderness feeling; pristine environment, extreme sense of remoteness, walkout long, arduous, and difficult.
Column 3[d] Degree of Canoeing Challenge.
- Little or no canoeing challenge; play spots either very limited or non-existent. For me, a canoe trip on this river is mainly a social occasion/day in the fresh air.
- Rapids require little concentration to negotiate, but satisfying play spots can be found; mainly a social occasion, but always provides an enjoyable trip.
- Rapids frequent and/or difficult enough to be enjoyable, but still well within my own capabilities; essentially a "fun" trip, with plenty of good play spots.
- A challenging canoe trip, which requires full use of my canoeing skills without actually extending them.
- A very challenging trip, which I would only attempt when confident of paddling at my best. The limit of what I feel to be within my canoeing ability.
Column 4: Rivers you have not paddled but have interest in.
There may be some rivers which you have NOT paddled, but for which simply knowing that the river exists is important to you as a paddler. For any such river(s), please use column to assign an importance grade, using the same criteria as for column 2. i.e. 1: little importance 2: Minor importance etc.
Column 5: Additional Comments
This is optional and is for any comments you may like to make concerning the river, its significance to you, or concerns you may have for the river. You may if you wish write further comments on a separate sheet of paper and return with survey.
We realise that some canoeists may have paddled rivers which are not on our list. If you have paddled any such rivers, please list these individually, one per line, in the spaces indicated on pages 5 onwards, and complete columns 1 to 3 as for the other rivers you have paddled.
Class I: Easy. Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. Few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training. Risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescue is easy.
Class II: Novice. Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers. Swimmers are seldom injured and group assistance, while helpful, is seldom needed.
Class III: Intermediate. Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required; large waves and strainers may be present but are easily avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. Scouting is advisable for inexperienced parties. Injuries while swimming are rare; self-rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims.
Class IV: Advanced. Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Depending on the character of the river, which may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure. A fast, reliable eddy turn may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids, or rest. Rapids may require "must [make]" moves above dangerous hazards. Scouting is necessary the first time down. Risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high, and water conditions may make seIf-rescue difficult. Group assistance for rescue is often essential but requires practice and skill. A strong Eskimo roll is highly recommended.
Class V: Expert. Extremely long, obstructed, or very violent rapids which expose a paddler to the above average endangerment. Drops may-contain, large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep congested chutes with complex, demanding routes. Rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness. What eddies exist may be small, turbulent, or difficult to reach. At the high end of the scale, several of these factors may be combined. Scouting is mandatory but often difficult. Swims are dangerous, and rescue is difficult even for experts. A very reliable Eskimo roll, proper equipment, extensive experience, and practiced rescue skills are essential for survival.
Class VI: Extreme. One grade more difficult than Class V. These runs often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger. The consequences of errors are very severe and rescue may be impossible. For teams of experts only, at favorable water levels, after close personal inspection and taking all precautions. This class does not represent drops thought to be unrunnable, but may include rapids which are only occasionally run.Excerpted from New Zealand Whitewater (Charles, 1999, p291).
|Mangorewa||(trib. to Kaituna)||vehicle||rain||III-IV+||NI|
|Rangitikei||Matawhero Bridge to Pukeokahu||vehicle||year-round||IV+ to V||NI|
|Wairoa||vehicle||releases||IV+ to V||NI|
|Crooked||Upper Gorge||walk||rain||IV+ to V||SI|
|Kakapotahi||vehicle||rain||IV+ to V||SI|
|Manuherikia||To Falls Dam||vehicle||rain||IV-V||SI|