To coin a sporting phrase - it's been a year of two halves. A year ago I was buoyant at the success we had had in conservation and access, especially with the gazetting of the Buller Water Conservation Order and the seemingly imminent resolution of the issues surrounding the Tongariro Power Development. By midway through this year, my optimism had given way to hard work and my personal feeling is now that this year has been more draining than previous ones.
In many ways, it was a bit like paddling a challenging rapid. At the lead in, a sense of excitement and challenge obscured the speed of the water and trickiness of the moves. Once "knocked off line" a lot of time and energy went into just surviving. This year, conservation battles have become more entrenched; with a lot of work being required to even maintain our position in the eddy, never mind making our way further down the river. The unprecedented number of deaths of people at all parts of the paddling spectrum has also taken its toll and I offer my condolences to everyone affected by these tragedies.
It has been a great inspiration to me personally to work with such wonderful people on the Executive; the rest of this report will only reflect a portion of their dedication and generosity. As a group they continue to devote thousands of hours of personal time to ensuring the NZRCA leads the way in the areas of conservation, access, education, safety and building the kayaking community.
Conservation and Access
The work put into conservation and access has, sadly, resulted in fewer triumphs than previous years, but it is a great consolation to note that this year has resulted in no major losses either. Graeme McIntyre of Palmerston North has recently offered his assistance as North Island Conservation Officer and it is anticipated that his assistance will be invaluable in the coming year.
In February 2002 we were advised that the Tekapo Whitewater Course had been successfully commissioned. This is a project that has taken many years and is a credit to the members of the Tekapo Whitewater Trust who have overseen this project from its inception. The NZRCA is currently trying to involve groups associated with rodeo and slalom in the future management of this great facility.
At the end of 2001 the validity of the Buller WCO was challenged by a company wanting a power scheme on the Gowan River. The NZRCA defended this challenge and won but now the matter is subject to appeal. Assuming that all goes well we will be applying to recover the costs spent on this. In the meantime Muzz Baker (our Conservation Officer) has become the de facto sponsor of our legal costs. Thank you Muzz for all the pro bono hours you and your employer have given us.
Thanks also go to Wade Bishop of Hamilton for his work on the Tongariro Power Development consent renewal process. A tentative agreement has been reached and it is hoped that in the near future we will be in a position to announce minimum flow days and planned releases for rivers such as the Tongariro and Whakapapa.
In addition to working on these conservation efforts, people have made many submissions from all around the country, to protect and improve kayaking opportunities on the following rivers:
- Perth, Adams and Wanganui (West Coast)
- Ohinemuri (Auckland)
- Kawarau (Queenstown)
- Rangitaiki (Bay of Plenty)
- Hurunui (Canterbury)
- Rangitikei (Manawatu)
- Otaki (Wellington)
- Waikato (Taupo - Hamilton)
- Wairoa (Tauranga)
- Clutha (Otago)
The NZRCA is grateful to all the people involved in making submissions; your vigilance is vital in ensuring the sustainability of our whitewater resource.
Safety and Education
It was all going so well until the paddling season arrived. Then, in a very short space of time, four people drowned in a series of events that stunned us all.
I would particularly like to thank the NZRCA team of Janet Nicol (Safety and Education Officer), Brett Whiteley and Graham Charles (Expert Instructors) for their efforts in guiding the Maritime Safety Authority (MSA) through its investigations and helping make sense of the events surrounding such tragedies.
It is clear from our involvement in these investigations that the MSA is not equipped to investigate whitewater drowning and the NZRCA hopes that in the future we can find ways of assisting the MSA to prevent as well as investigate accidents.
Over the last year we have had a record increase in the number of people accessing the Water Safety NZ subsidy for NZRCA River Rescue and River Safety Courses. This subsidy is currently threatened by proposed changes Lottery Grants Funding but we are working with WSNZ to ensure it can remain. In the meantime I encourage all paddlers to make use of the available funding and do a NZRCA approved course.
Newsletter and Website
The NZ Canoeing newsletter has continued to be our prime method of communicating directly to members. This year there have been three newsletters published. It is great to see that Polly Miller (Communications Officer) has been effective in attracting sponsorship from advertisers, as this medium is a costly method of keeping members up to date. The support from DayTwo, Q-Kayaks (Wavesport), Water Safety NZ, River Valley, and Dwights Canvas (Necky Kayaks) has assisted us greatly - please support them in return.
Building the sense of community amongst paddlers was one of the commitments made to the last AGM. To this end Jonathan Hunt (Webmaster) has put a lot of time into developing discussion forums on www.rivers.org.nz and these are to be online soon. These forums will enable paddlers to share their views on a wide range of topics and will have a format similar to the already popular Buy, Sell & Swap forum. Keep an eye on www.rivers.org.nz for future developments.
We have had little change in increase in total membership numbers, from last year. The low rate of membership amongst kayakers continues to be a concern because only by having the numbers can we hope to be effective in fighting access and conservation battles. Alan Bell (Membership Officer) has been working hard to increase membership, especially in the Auckland and Central North Island areas, and we welcome new members from Hamilton Canoe Club. If you have any suggestions or questions regarding membership please contact Alan, he'd love to hear from you.
In conjunction with the other member associations of the NZ Canoe Federation the NZRCA helped organised the National Canoeing Forum. This was originally scheduled for late 2001, rescheduled for February 2002 and eventually held in May 2002 in Hamilton. The low level of interest in this Forum was surprising and meant that it was not able to look seriously at strategies for developing the sport. We are particularly concerned to note the recent resignation of the President, Treasurer and Secretary of the NZCF and at the AGM we will be asking members to reevaluate our continued participation in this body.
There is a separate report outlining our financial situation. Lynne Fuggle is proving to be an exceptionally capable and diligent Treasurer and I believe this shows in the fact that that we have (once again) managed our limited funds in a prudent manner. All the members of the Executive who have simply absorbed incidental costs such as toll call and photocopying rather than seek reimbursement have helped Lynne's efforts.
By the end of the year we had not received our usual grant for administration costs from the Hillary Commission via the NZCF. With the recent upheaval faced by the NZCF we are not anticipating this money to be forthcoming. Membership continues to be our major source of income.
As membership appears static (despite our best efforts) we envisage that we will need to look at other fundraising strategies to gain sufficient income to tackle future projects. We are in serious need of an Executive member who is a capable fundraiser. If there is anybody who is interested in assisting with this we would be delighted to hear from them.
Milli Bardsley of Lower Hutt was appointed to the role of Administration Officer in July 2001 and has played a pivotal role in the day-to-day operation of the NZRCA. Milli's passion for kayaking is infectious and this coupled with her talent for administrative tasks has assisted the rest of the Executive to function most effectively.
Janet has advised that she will not be standing again for the position of Safety and Education Officer. Her time and expertise was a great contribution to the work of the NZRCA and the support offered to all those affected by this year's drownings was greatly appreciated.
The position of Vice-President has remained vacant since last year's AGM. This has not been a desirable situation but one that we have been able to live with. I would like to thank Mike Savory (Access Officer) for filling in when I have not been able to chair meetings etc. I have really appreciated his wisdom.
Lastly thanks to all the paddling people out there. 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 be worthwhile.