Reflecting on the 2000/2001 year, it seems that it has been one of consolidation. At the end of 1999/2000 despite many successes we were looking at a rather unhealthy balance sheet, we had dwindling membership numbers, and had our greatest number of drownings ever in a season. We said at the AGM we would work to address these areas and I believe we have. Working between 4-6 hours a week each of the ten members of the Executive team have devoted over 2,500 hours of volunteer time ensuring whitewater kayaking is enjoyable, safe, accessible, and viable for years to come.
This amount of work requires the support of their partners, friends, work-places, and I thank them all for aiding us in our work. Thanks also to the members who gave feedback, made submissions, raised issues and offered assistance - it's is great to know that such commitment and enthusiasm is out there as sometimes it can seem like a lost cause without getting feedback from around the country. So, was it all worth it? What were the results?
Conservation and Access
Although the NZRCA represents all kayakers on conservation and access issues the number of kayakers making their own submissions appears to be increasing. This is great, not only does it give our voice more volume it also helps convey the depth of feeling about the threat proposed to our whitewater resources.
Imagine, if you will, the people on conservation boards or councils who have to consider a proposal that could negatively affect kayaking. Faced with only a submission from the NZRCA they could possibly be forgiven for thinking that the views expressed are from a bunch of "greenie do-gooders" with nothing better to do than interfere in the workings of the Resource Management Act. Then imagine the same group facing the same NZRCA submission, along with six submissions from kayak clubs in the region, and 30 submissions from kayakers who are also builders, teachers, engineers, fathers, mothers, and even accountants. Now this same group of people sit up and take notice; these submissions are not just from a bunch of "leftie-greenies" but people they can identify with. It is surprising what can be achieved if one gets off one's bum and does something.
This year the NZRCA has spoken out on:
- Preprogrammed recreational releases and flows on the rivers of the Central Plateau (Tongariro Power Scheme)
- Obtaining a compensatory release for the Mangahao river
- Objecting to the damming of the Hurunui River
- Objecting to commercial jet boating and huge earthworks on the Kawarau River
- Maintaining helicopter access to the Karamea River and other rivers in the Kahurangi National Park.
- Objecting to further hydro exploitation on the Arnold River
- Supporting a National Water Conservation order for the Rangitata River
- Limiting irrigation extraction from the Rangitata River
- Improving the controlled flow regime of the Waikato River power schemes (i.e., Ngawaaparua)
- Progressing Buller National Water Conservation Order to its gazettal
- Developing the Tekapo rodeo and slalom facility
- Restoring access to the Karangarua River
And what did we achieve? The release on the Mangahao went ahead, the threats to the Kawarau are on hold, the final wording of the Buller NWCO has been checked by NZRCA, and promoters of all the other threats have been put on notice that kayakers are determined to have their rights upheld. In addition, Sarah and Maree spoke for kayakers in front of the Parliamentary Select Committee considering amendments to the Resource Management Act, and the Tekapo facility is due to open in the new season.
Much of the above falls within the Conservation portfolio, and is a lot of work for one person to manage. The NZRCA therefore seeks two people to assist the Conservation Officer in providing support to kayakers making their own submissions and to ensure that the NZRCA has structures in place to effectively monitor and speak out on issues in both islands. Please contact Maree Baker if you would like to be either the North or South Island Conservation Coordinator, or contribute in some other way.
Safety and Education
The Safety and Education portfolios were combined at the last AGM and this has streamlined much of what happens in this area. There were no deaths this year, however the increase in reported incidents and the down turn in kayakers taking up the NZRCA subsidy on safety courses gives us cause to be concerned about the future. We are seeking additional funding to promote these courses and an increase in the level of subsidy.
Following the release of unsubstantial Maritime Safety Authority reports into last summer's drownings we have strengthened links with the MSA and obtained an agreement to ensure the use of expert kayakers to assist future MSA investigations.
Newsletter and Website
The NZRCA is committed to keeping members up to date with developments and in helping members share their experiences with others. NZ Canoeing has continued to be our prime method of communicating to members. The number of contributors is increasing and response from readers is good. We have worked hard to reduce the cost of this without compromising quality, as this is our single biggest item of expenditure each year.
The continued support of Earth Touch Adventures and the Wilderness Adventures through placing continuing advertisements in the newsletter has been of great assistance. I ask all members to support all the advertisers in NZ Canoeing as they are supporting saving your rivers.
The website is increasingly popular with the "buy/sell/swap" page attracting lots of traffic. We hope in the next year to use the site to build the sense of community amongst kayakers with the addition of discussion forums and the promotion of regional mailing lists.
We have had a marginal increase in total membership numbers and the affiliation of three more clubs, which is great considering that last year we had a 20% drop. The proposed stakeholders meetings to investigate the blocks to membership and develop NZRCA strategy are in the planning stage.
Despite a membership drive, offers of free T-shirts and the direct mailout of posters and membership forms to over 100 kayaking businesses nation-wide the biggest challenge faced by the NZRCA is how to increase membership numbers. This directly links to our ability to be an effective, credible lobby group for all paddlers.
Though it seems like most clubs are having a down turn in numbers we are concerned about those clubs who are choosing to declare less than their full membership. If these clubs believe that the NZRCA does not warrant their full support then I ask that they contact us to tell us why so we can endeavour to rectify things.
If you would like to assist in increasing membership perhaps the most effective thing you can do is be proud of your status as a member, tell others you are supporting the NZRCA, let them know what we are doing to keep rivers flowing, then give them your copy of the newsletter and drop us a line if you'd like a replacement.
Despite our coming out ahead financially this year, the NZRCA's outlook longer term is far from assured. Following the last AGM we firmed up procedures to cut our expenditure with particular success slashing the cost of telephone meetings. We have not had to fight any costly conservation battles this financial year but, as noted earlier, these are "on hold" rather than "sorted". Should we be required to make in-person submissions, attend hearings and so on, then it will drain our savings, as we cannot expect to meet the costs of professionals from current cash flow.
Financial viability goes hand in hand with membership when it comes to saving rivers, so obtaining funds has become a priority and will continue to be so for at least the next year. Members' subscriptions, donations, the administration grant from the Hillary Commission (delivered to us via the New Zealand Canoeing Federation) and advertisers in NZ Canoeing are our only sources of income at present. We are investigating methods of securing grants and the establishment of a Rivers Charitable Trust as ways to help assist our situation. Creation of a Trust focused on river conservation may encourage more donations as well as better support applications for funding from other sources. In the meantime thank you for those donations received from our supporters. Every dollar counts.
Farewells and Thank You's
This year we lost our financial wizz Fiona MacKay and our membership maniac Chris Sinclair to work in Sydney and London respectively. Their time and expertise was a great contribution to the work of the NZRCA and their support greatly appreciated.
Alan Bell of Lower Hutt has been appointed as Membership Officer and Lynne Fuggle of Christchurch has moved into the Treasurer role. As Lynne was the Administration Officer, another vacancy was created which we are in the process of filling; in the meantime Lynne wears both hats. Thanks Lynne for all your dedication, efficiency and enthusiasm.
Thanks also to Perception NZ for promoting the NZRCA in their Owner's Handbook and including a NZRCA membership form with every new kayak. Lastly thanks to all the paddling people out there who make this a sport worth fighting for. Thanks to all the people who encourage new participants, push the limits, have fun, and share their passion with others - without you none of what we do would make a difference. Share the passion - Save the rivers!