Annual Report 2004

Robin Rutter-Baumann summarises the NZRCA's achievements and challenges over the past year, and looks to the future.

This year has been a tough one for the NZRCA. A number of the conservation issues we have been working on have been moving very slowly, and some that we thought we had in the bag have regressed. This along with a slowdown in cashflow has meant the Executive, more than ever, have been wondering how best to engage with the wider paddling community to enlist support. Having been President now for four years I have at times found myself lacking energy so have relied upon and appreciated the continued enthusiasm of the other members of the Executive to get me through. This group truly are the unsung heroes of NZ paddling and to all of them I want to say a big "Thank you".

Exec changes during the year

The resignation at the last AGM of Milli made way for Belinda Green who for the next eight months juggled study commitments with her NZRCA Administration Officer role. Belinda's decision to step down at the end of 2003 left a gap which has been admirably filled by Anne Smith of Lower Hutt. Anne is fast carving out a niche for herself as a key member of the NZRCA, and her contribution is much appreciated.

Steffan Lamont joined the Executive in January 2004 to take on the Education Officer's role and free up Glenn to work more exclusively on safety issues. We had less luck finding a replacement for Polly who, as Communications Officer, did an excellent job over a number of years and is sorely missed. This position has remained vacant since November 2003 which has resulted in more work for both the Membership Officer and Newsletter Editor.

Conservation and Access

Muzz Baker (South Island Conservation), Duncan Catanach (North Island Conservation), and Graeme McIntyre (Access Officer) have been working well together to keep the river resource available to all paddlers.

Three specific issues dominated Duncan Catanach's work as North Island Conservation Officer activity over the last year: Rock "A" on the Rangitaiki River, Project Aqua and the Upper Waitaki catchment and the Wairehu Playhole. While in the South Muzz Baker continued with work on preserving the Rangitata, Buller and Hurunui Rivers whilst also working to reach some agreement with Mighty River Power regarding flows on the Waikato. In the case of the Hurunui the NZRCA is particularly grateful to Ian Gill-Fox for his willingness to act on our behalf.

At a more general level, contributions were made to submissions on the Acland Land Access report and on the Department of Conservation's draft Conservation Policy Guidelines. Moving forward, it appears that as a result of the Government's RMA Review and Water Programme of Action, the NZRCA will have to lobby hard to preserve the benefits currently provided by Water Conservation Orders.

"Rock "A", Rangitaiki River

In early 2003, Environment Bay of Plenty (EBOP), in response to MSA reports on two rafting fatalities on the Rangitaiki River, mooted modifying the riverbed to reduce the rock sieve hazard - Rock "A". NZRCA sent a submission to EBOP with our views at that time. Early in 2004, a report was prepared for EBOP on the management of the hazard. Apparently the attempted plugging of the sieve with concrete bags in 2003 failed and the report proposed to move Rock "A" from the main flow with an excavator from river right.

Despite only receiving this report a few days prior to the close-off date, NZRCA made another submission to EBOP arguing that where the reduction of a naturally occurring hazard is required and/or desirable, we would generally be more supportive of measures that do not significantly alter the natural environment and/or the quality of the whitewater resource, particularly if other alternative measure are potentially available. From the information NZRCA had received it certainly wasn't clear that all options to plug the gap had been exhausted. The good news is that EBOP are going to try and plug the gap with other boulders before shifting the rock, and that they are keen to have NZRCA's input.

The "bad" news is that the fact that Rock "A" arose at all is an indication that increasingly, legal liability fears appear to be a greater driver of behaviour than common sense and personal responsibility. As the submission noted, "removing all potential hazards from rivers is not a practical or sustainable solution" and that "part of the attraction of kayaking is to exercise judgment and discretion in the navigation of hazards, not necessarily to eliminate them". It appears that the EBOP Council made a commercial decision to do something about Rock "A" because of the BOP Council's (and their own) concerns about potential legal liability if there was a further fatality and direct and indirect pressure from the MSA (who incidentally requested action on another hazard unconnected to the fatality, Rock "B", as well).

Wairehu Playhole

As part of Genesis' resource consent process for the Central Plateau (Tongariro-Rangipo) power scheme, the Outdoor Pursuits Centre, in conjunction with the NZRCA, had negotiated compensation to build an artificial playhole on the Wairehu Canal, near Turangi. The amount of compensation agreed was based, in good faith, on Genesis engineer's cost estimates of building the playhole. However, during last year it became apparent that the true cost of building the playhole would be approximately 66% more than the original estimate. Despite considerable lobbying by the NZRCA and OPC, and Genesis admitting that the cost blow-out was largely due to their engineers' miscalculations, Genesis refused to increase their funding.

The resource consent has now been passed in the Environmental Court and we are stuck with the original amount agreed. While this is still a positive outcome, it is still disappointing that Genesis was not prepared to be more accommodating in this instance. We are now seeking funding from four Community organisations in the hope that the playhole development can still proceed.

Project Aqua and the Upper Waitaki Catchment

Although Meridian Energy has now shelved Project Aqua on the Lower Waitaki, NZRCA did lodge a submission in respect of the proposal. Project Aqua did not threaten any significant white water resource, but it would have had a dramatic effect on the major braided river environment of the lower Waitaki.

The canning of Project Aqua however, leaves the status of the proposed Resource Management (Waitaki Catchments) Amendment Bill in the balance. This bill, if it goes through, would create a water allocation framework for the entire Waitaki catchment, including any current and proposed resource consents for drawing water from Lake Tekapo and Pukaki. Of particular concern to the NZRCA are a number of resource consents that would allow up to a quarter of the average inflow into Lake Tekapo to be drawn for irrigation purposes.

According to the current agreement between Meridian Energy and the Tekapo Whitewater Trust, whitewater releases for the Tekapo River are based on certain minimum lake levels being met. It is likely that these minimum levels will be less frequently met if the significant additional drawings proposed in these resource consents are approved. NZRCA will keep a watching brief on this as it is important that our hard-fought agreement with Meridian Energy is not jeopardised.


Efforts to reach an agreement with Mighty River Power (MRP) regarding a workable flow regime for paddlers have continued throughout the year. Recent mediation has resulted in the NZRCA making a "Heads of Agreement" offer to MRP, however we are not confident that we will be able to avoid needing to take this matter to the Environmental Court.

Water Conservation Orders

Some of the largest successes for whitewater kayaking over the last ten years have been the preservation of white-water resources using Water Conservation Orders. The significance of these can be summed up as being like awarding a National Park status specifically to a river.

This year the NZRCA was delighted to learn that the Mohaka WCO was finally gazetted, some 12 years after it was granted. This may seem like a long time but it is almost 15 years since the Motuteka WCO was granted and it's still waiting for the Minister's signature! Meanwhile, the Buller WCO is being appealed by a company wanting to generate hydro-electricity from the waters of the Gowan. The NZRCA is vehemently opposed to the changing of the Buller WCO so soon after it has been gazetted. Work also continues on the WCO for the Rangitata River.

Water Programme of Action (Threat to Water Conservation Orders)

It appears that there is already a considerable head of steam within Ministry for the Environment to change WCO's from their current state, and there are strong indications that it won't necessarily be favourable to our cause. There are two current Government programmes under which this could occur - the current review of the Resource Management Act and the Water Programme of Action. In particular, the latter programme is trying to define what a water body of national importance and/or interest is, and this is likely to give much greater prominence to extractive and commercial uses of water than previously. The NZRCA is working with other conservation organisations, particularly Fish & Game, to try and ensure that the essential aspects of WCO's remain untouched.


While having rivers preserved is important, it is equally crucial to the NZRCA to have access to rivers at useable flows, especially where the natural amenity has been disrupted by damming. Resolving such issues has been Graeme McIntyre's main work.

Some Waikaretaheke releases were affected due to problems with the dam (equipment), but these have been resolved, and releases should continue in due course. Tekapo releases have gone well over the year excluding one or two that had to be cancelled due to high water levels. Thanks to Alan and Kirsty Hoffman, Gary Gollan of Meridian Energy, and all the others that have had the hands on task of looking after the Tekapo Whitewater Course.

At the last few releases at Mangahao the numbers of paddlers have dropped off. Why this has happened we are not sure, but comments from paddlers include insufficient water being released, paddlers not wanting to travel to the site and that the novelty of paddling a river like this is gone. The NZRCA is concerned that with hydropower being an increasingly pressured commodity we may end up in a "use it or lose it" situation and we should think about what could happen if the numbers continue to drop off. Could we manage on only one release per year?

In the past year there have been many issues related to physical access and there is a continuing concern that access for the public may not be available in some cases in time to come. These concerns have raised their head due to many reasons including private companies refusing access, DOC's approach to issues such as the Adams Wilderness Area, and changes to Government policy (e.g. land access, Queen's Chain, Public Domain etc). The NZRCA has been making submission on these matters wherever possible.

Education and Safety

Glenn's work this year to improve the quality of the Maritime Safety Authority's reports on kayaking related fatalities has been significant. Although there is still a long way to go, the approach taken has seen a draft Memorandum of Understanding developed between MSA, NZOIA and NZRCA. Currently this memorandum cannot be ratified by MSA due to funding constraints. The NZRCA views this as a major issue, especially given the recent criticism of the MSA by overseas experts called in by the Police to review the death of Tim Jameson on the Buller two years ago.

Taking on the role of Education Officer in February, Steffan's first job was to re-apply for funding from Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ). We would like to thank WSNZ for the funding for the year just gone, which made subsidies for Safety and Rescue Courses possible. Looking at the cost of the two courses highlighted the fact that River Safety courses received a lower subsidy than the River Rescue courses, while both courses usually cost similar amounts. Both courses now receive subsidies of $60 per person.

The significance and benefits from these courses are wide reaching. The recipients of subsidies obviously benefit directly from receiving the training, but the people they kayak with also receive benefits through subsidy recipients' ability to offer advice, knowledge and experience to less experienced paddlers, and to provide assistance when things go wrong.

Over the last 10 years the kayaking world has undergone significant changes, with radical developments in boat design, the skill levels that kayakers are reaching, the accessibility for people to try the sport, and the different areas within the sport. In light of this, the NZRCA is conducting a review of the content of the Safety courses to ensure that our members are receiving the Safety skills that they need for whatever kind of kayaking that they are doing. Proposed changes include removing the requirement for the instructor to be a 'current' NZOIA member, and getting Level 1 instructors involved in co-instructing on River Safety courses when there are larger group numbers. These changes should increase the available instructor pool and the ability to run courses in some regions (e.g. Hawkes Bay and Southland).

Over the past three years we have seen a decline in the number of people taking up the subsidy on offer for either of the Safety courses. Kayaking is about fun, adventure, and adrenalin (for some), but remember; things can and do go wrong. Having the necessary skills to deal with a situation when it occurs can mean the difference between someone's life and death. The subsidies are available for all members - simply contact the Education Officer at

Thanks to Jonathan Hunt (Webmaster), the NZRCA now has an online Accident and Incident Database. This allows anyone to review the facts of an incident and hopefully learn from any mistakes that may have been made. In the last year the database reports of one fatality and two near-misses. This also serves to remind us that even though this is a fun sport, it can have serious consequences and as such it is important to acquire and maintain those safety skills.

Risk management and legal liability issues have been a feature of Tony Ward-Holmes' work and has resulted in a number of informative and provocative articles in NZ Canoeing. These issues are likely to be very important to kayakers in the years to come, and the NZRCA is keen to engage in the development of the legal and professional definition of these areas.


As noted earlier, the Communications Officer position is vacant at present, so as well as editing NZ Canoeing, Tony Ward-Holmes has also been overseeing its advertising and distribution while at the same time generating much of the content. A number of members have commented favourably on the change of style that Tony has brought to NZ Canoeing.

Although our Webmaster, Jonathan Hunt, has been absent for much of the year, the long dark British winter assisted him to continue developing The popularity of the site has continued to soar this year with the discussion forums enabling paddlers to exchange a divergent range news and views. Keeping the news content of the site up to date has been the job of Vice-President Mike Birch, who has capably fitted this into his multi-faceted role which includes maintaining the NZRCA's relationship with the NZ Canoeing Federation.

The NZRCA has struggled to maintain a working relationship with the NZCF over the last few years and this year was no exception. In part this is due to a need for it to remedy some internal systems. The NZRCA is concerned that the NZCF may falter completely in the near future and, as noted in the financial section of this report, will need to shield itself from the negative consequences of this.


Members' affiliation fees are the lifeblood of the NZRCA. It is interesting to note, however, that where these fees are raised does not match the countries population spread or where the work of the NZRCA is done.

South Island clubs make up 54% of affiliated members while North island clubs account for 46%. Of the member clubs, the following are the big players; Christchurch Whitewater Canoe Club, Otago Canoe and Kayak Club, University of Canterbury Canoe Club and Nelson Canoe Club. Together they account for 48% of the NZRCA club membership and 90% of South Island members.

Wellington and southern North Island clubs make up just fewer than 25% of the total affiliated members and half of North Island affiliated members while membership from Auckland and Central NI is very low. Throughout the year Alan Bell has been working hard to address this imbalance, and as a result even Northland has joined 30 members.

There is currently a need for a campaign to remind individual members to maintain NZRCA membership and Alan is considering making this a project for someone that we could perhaps offer some small payment for. If you are interested in assisting Alan please contact


For the first time in some years the NZRCA made a small loss; this was despite incurring almost no cost for conservation work. Although the overall figures do not show too serious a shortfall in income, the scale of the problem is best shown by the 38% drop in income.

During the year our actual income was $10,134 whilst expenditure was $13,715, but due to the carrying over of $2,659 in funding from the Hillary Commission via the NZ Canoeing Federation we managed to balance out most of this. Unfortunately, such a grant was not received this year, and because of problems within the NZ Canoeing Federation this is the last such grant we expect for some time. Based on our current situation we could expect a budget blow out of approximately $4,000 this coming year.

During the year we have done the ground work to establish a "funding body" for conservation work. The NZ Conservation Rivers Trust is almost ready to be founded, and the NZRCA is currently seeking suitable trustees. The intention is that the Trust will raise and distribute funds to conserve natural inland waterways and for educating the wider community about issues relating to these.

The income from Water Safety NZ has been accumulating and now totals $3,798. This is due to lower than expected numbers of subsidy being applied for. Given that WSNZ funding is likely to continue it would now seem prudent to discuss ways of passing on this "nest egg" to members as soon as possible. The AGM is invited to consider the most effective way to do this.

Thank you

The work of the NZRCA is supported by many people, not least of who are the partners and friends of the Executive, without whose tolerance the work just wouldn't get done. I would also like to thank the companies who have generously sponsored adverts in NZ Canoeing, especially Hydraulics who this year pledged a percentage of their profits and to ALC Legal for their continued support of river conservation.

Robin Rutter-Baumann
New Zealand Recreational Canoeing Association (Inc).