Update 29 September 2009: Whitewater NZ has appealed the WCO seeking better protection for Maori Gully. Numerous other parties have also appealed.
Update 14 August 2009: The Special Tribunal has recommended a WCO be granted to protect the North Branch of the Hurunui River.
Report of Special Tribunal (PDF, 3MB)
An application for a Water Conservation Order (WCO) (PDF, 5.3MB) was lodged on August 30 by Fish & Game and the New Zealand Recreational Canoeing Association.
The application is mostly focused on the Upper Hurunui River and lakes which are presently unaffected by dams or water takes. The application aims to preserve the natural condition of these waters.
The Upper Hurunui River It is the most kayaked river in Canterbury and one of the most kayaked in the country. It receives year-round use by local clubs such as Whitewater Canoe Club and the University of Canterbury Canoe Club, visiting clubs from Auckland to Otago, polytechs and schools, kayak shop courses, slalom competitions, and by numerous unaffiliated paddlers.
The Hurunui River contains a mix of tight, rocky gorges with more open, bouldery reaches in between. It is an ideal teaching river with many spots suitable for beginners, for safety and rescue courses, and for more advanced paddlers to hone their skills, e.g. on slalom camps.
The variety of paddling available, easy access at several points along the river and proximity to Christchurch allows several different options of trips to be run. Very few other rivers anywhere in NZ offer the variety that the Hurunui River does and none that do are within reasonable day-trip reach of a major population centre.
The New Zealand Whitewater guide says of the Hurunui:
"Flowing through an isolated sub alpine valley, much of the attraction of the Hurunui lies in its easy, yet enjoyable rapids with excellent eddies for teaching and learning. It's Canterbury's most used beginner river, the first whitewater trip for countless neophyte Canterbury paddlers, site of many slaloms and training sessions, and a good hang out to escape the city scene".
The NZRCA river use survey conducted in 1991 showed that the Hurunui River was the 5th most paddled river in New Zealand after the Buller, Waikato, Manawatu, and Tongariro Rivers. Maori Gully was the 6th most paddled grade 3 section; and Top Gorge / Joliebrook the 4th most paddled grade 2 section. Since the date of the survey, relative usage on the Hurunui River is likely to have increased due to teaching use by polytechnic and other instruction groups, particularly for multi-sport certification.
"The WCO is a valuable tool for ensuring the protection of exceptional waterways, " said Bryce Johnson, Chief Executive of Fish & Game New Zealand, "and gives the protected waterway similar status to a national park. The wide support given to this application underlines the value accorded to the upper Hurunui by the New Zealand community."
"Fish & Game consider the Upper Hurunui River and lakes to be an outstanding natural environment" said Fish & Game North Canterbury Environment Officer, Jason Holland. "We believe a Water Conservation Order for the Hurunui River and lakes is both appropriate and very necessary to protect this environment for future generations."