Another fulfilling year for the Association has ticked its way by, with some events and insights that made the 1999/2000 year a memorable if not always enjoyable year.
Firstly the enjoyable bits. We all witnessed an unprecedented number on people of rivers over the season, and nearly everyone was enjoying himself or herself safely. Maybe the Association is close to achieving one part of its mission statement. Congratulations to those who extended themselves that little bit further, whether it be the excitement of the first river roll, pioneering a run on some hair-boating wonder trip in the back of beyond, or within the bounds of a comfort zone somewhere in between.
The achievements this year have been small scale but numerous. Lynne Fuggle's appointment as part-time Administration Officer a year ago has seen major improvements in the NZRCA's contact with clubs and individual members, getting information in and out of the Association, as well as keeping the national Executive running. Thanks to Lynne for all her hours of duty.
Conservation and Access
Input on conservation and access issues has been maintained, including two submissions lodged with Canterbury Regional Council concerning irrigation proposals for South Canterbury's Rangitata River. A submission was also lodged on the Department of Conservation's review of the Westland / Tai Poutini National Park Management Plan, where the NZRCA sought kayaker-friendly air access rules for the Karangarua River. The Association has also continued its correspondence with the Minister Responsible for Treaty Negotiations concerning the new government's policy on the future ownership of river beds.
The Association is signatory to three agreements with hydro electric companies providing for recreational releases. These agreements guarantee conditions negotiated as part of the consent renewals required for the Mangahao dams (includes releases on the Mangahao River and Mangaore Stream), Waitaki power scheme (Pukaki and Tekapo Rivers), and the Waikare-Taheke River scheme.
These agreements appear to be functioning relatively well, although a large number of us experienced a major headache when the Mangahao release for October 1999 was cancelled by the power station operators due to predicted bad weather. The Association is currently 'in dialogue' with the Mangahao station manager concerning options for an additional release within the current calendar year. Overall these releases are important gathering occasion for kayakers and rafters, and I look forward to getting the dates and places for releases posted on the NZRCA website. The outcome of the Mangahao will also be advertised.
We have done limited work on the proposed river survey in the year 2001. This survey was voted a priority at last year's AGM and further work is required to make this happen. Needless to say the arguments for the survey are strong. Robust survey data is needed to back up the Association's case in arguing for kayakers in hydro consent renewals, as well as defending free-flowing rivers before planning hearings and the Environment Court. At the same time such research needs to be carefully planned and well resourced. We are currently seeking assistance with this project with the aim of making it a priority for next year. If you can assist with this project, the Association would like to hear from you.
Safety and Education
Safety and education continue to be important themes for the New Zealand kayaking community. The deaths of two visiting overseas paddlers in the New Year were very sad events. Robin Rutter-Baumann and I responded to the numerous radio, newspaper and television reporters inquiring about the 'sanity' of the sport, and whether visiting foreign paddlers could be expected to know about the dangers of New Zealand rivers. In assuring the general public that the risks are manageable but at the same time it is a risky sport, I took some comfort that this year the Association has delivered river safety education to a record number of course participants.
This result is completely due to the organising efforts of Education Officer Janette Kear, the sponsorship of Water Safety New Zealand, the canoe clubs who organised courses, and the standards of the NZOIA Level 2 instructors eligible to run the NZRCA courses.
Safety training and education must continue to be a major focus of the Association, and I trust that the present training is hitting the right note. Right now the Executive proposes that the Safety and Education portfolios be merged, strengthening the delivery of service to member clubs and individuals. This proposal will be available for debate at the AGM.
The Association needs more. The last year has seen a net decline in total membership from 1,078 at the start of the year to present numbers of 811. This 20% drop in total numbers seems largely due to falling memberships within affiliated clubs, as well as a very slow growth in the Association's individual membership to only 32 people. There are a lot of paddlers out there who are not NZRCA members, who benefit from free flowing rivers, who may appreciate some safety training, and may want to hear what's happening in the rest of the scene. We want to hear from these people.
Much of the Association's activity last year was focused on the negotiations and eventual agreement over the Clarence. While the compromise reached was relatively "low cost" (compared with the expense of going to a full hearing), we incurred the inevitable professional charges from the people that we needed to help us through the process. Combined with the declining membership, the 1999 / 2000 balance sheet looks decidedly sad. The details are revealed in the financial figures below. The Executive has discussed options to reverse the present trend. This issue will also be available for debate at the AGM.
Farewells & Thank you's
It is with some sadness that we farewell retiring Executive members Safety Officer Ian Logie, and the long serving Janette Kear (Education) and Colin Leitch (Access). Thank you for your efforts guys, come visit anytime, and enjoy that little bit of extra time to go boating. Now the "thank-you"s. A very big thank you to all those clubs and individuals who continue to support us in the work we do, and our two major sponsors, Water Safety New Zealand and the Hillary Commission. My thanks to all Executive members for their input and support throughout the year, and to those others who contributed time and energy in big and little ways through the year: Wade Bishop for his continuing input into the Tongariro Power Development (TPD) consent renewals; Miriam Odlin for emptying the Wellington PO Box; Tracey Wemyss and Janet Nicol for their combined strategic thinking and catering skills; Bill Thomson for his continuing support and demonstration of the importance of getting 'out there'; and the friends, flatmates and partners of all the Executive who sacrificed their telephones for NZRCA audio conferences.
May the rivers flow for you always.