Annual Report 2007

NZRCA President Mike Birch presents the Annual Report to Members for 2007.
Mike Birch, NZRCA President

It has been another busy year for the NZRCA with many of the executive finding it hard to find time for NZRCA work in their increasingly busy lives. Thanks to all the members of the executive for putting in a great deal of time and effort on a voluntary basis.

A major challenge for the future for the NZRCA will be with outcomes from the Government's Draft Energy Strategy. There has been a great deal of media attention recently about New Zealand's energy needs and the need for renewable energy sources. The NZRCA will need to step up a gear to cope with the potential threat to many of our whitewater resources.

On a more positive note, King Country Energy's (KCE) resource consent for their proposed hydro scheme on the Mokau River was declined and the Wairehu playhole has been built and is soon to be opened to the public.

We welcomed two new members to the executive: Kieron Thorpe (South Island Conservation) and Matt Barker (Education). Kieron and others filled in for Duncan Catanach while he was out of action (hitting the rivers of British Columbia and Nepal) for much of the latter half of 2006.


Mokau River

After a blistering performance from Alan Bell and others at the Resource Management Act (RMA) hearings, the local councils saw reason and declined King Country Energy's (KCE) resource consent for their proposed hydro scheme, which would smother most of the rapids on this great resource. KCE are appealing this decision so the battle is not won yet (no word yet on when the appeal might take place), but kayakers are at least on the front foot in this battle.

The other major river battle in the North Island at the moment is Bay of Plenty Electricity's proposed hydro scheme on the Kaituna River, which would obliterate the Awesome and Gnarly Gorge sections. The Kaituna scheme will affect the Upper Kaituna Scenic Reserve and so a Department of Conservation (DoC) concession is required as well as a resource consent. The DoC concession process is still unresolved and has been the scene of quite a bit of political football. Don Brash and the National party had a go at the process first in the middle of last year. Then towards the end of 2006, DoC gave a recommendation to approve the concession "in principle", despite it concluding in its written report that the proposal would have a significant effect on the "natural and scenic character of the reserve". Interestingly enough, the law (the Conservation Act) says that if there is a significant effect on the natural and scenic character of the reserve, DoC has no option but to decline the concession. Nobody quite knows what DoC was up to when it approved the concession in principle, but let's just say that we note that the Government published it's Draft Energy Strategy ("renewable energy at all cost") the week before DoC published its recommendations on the Kaituna. The good news is that kayakers have definitely made their views heard on this matter. Locals Andi Uhl, Donald Calder and others have been at the forefront of the fight and the NZRCA made a submission opposing the approval of the concession and gave a strong presentation at a recent DoC hearing on the matter.

Talking of the Government's Draft Energy Strategy, this is an unmitigated disaster for kayakers. The Government, because of a concern over greenhouse gases (laudable) and potential Kyoto Agreement penalties (hmmm...), has decided that it's "renewable" energy only from now on. It has already signalled changes to the RMA so that the "national benefits" of renewable energy generation are taken into account in any decision. I'm not sure what economics has to do with the supposed purpose of the RMA -sustainable management of resources -but the net result is that the playing field has been substantially and even further tilted in favour of the power companies. What's worse, if the figures around future hydro generation in the Government's Energy Strategy are anything to go by, we will have more battles on our hands than we will know what to do with trying to make sure that our non-renewable river ecosystems aren't blindly sacrificed in the pursuit of renewable energy. The NZRCA submitted on the Draft Energy Strategy and it's well worth a read if you want to understand where things might head.

Arnold Hydro Scheme

The Arnold is one of a kind on the West Coast - a popular grade 2 run with easy access and phone cover all the way down. As a result it's very popular with schools and higher education colleges from all over.

The scheme will leave minimal flows (circa 12m3/s) in the river between the intake and outlet, essentially destroying the existing run. If the scheme goes ahead there are a couple of mitigation options on the table, however neither of these will ever be able to replace the existing resource. The NZRCA is supporting the efforts of local paddlers and education professionals Dave Ritchie and Andy England in their discussions with the applicant.

NZRCA was one of many kayaking groups to submit in opposition to the scheme. Others included Whitewater Canoe Club and Tai Poutini Polytechnic. The hearing will be held in Greymouth in September and November 2007.

Proposed Changes to the Buller Water Conservation Order

A Tribunal will consider an application by Fish & Game to amend the Buller River Water Conservation Order. Fish & Game wants the order changed to recognise and protect the outstanding nature of the Gowan River trout fishery and its contribution to fisheries in the Buller River and Lake Rotoroa.

Forest & Bird is also seeking protection of the Matiri River which flows out of Lake Matiri, the Black Valley Stream near St Arnaud, and eels in the Gowan River. NZRCA and WWCC have submitted in support of this application. Hydro schemes have been proposed for both rivers, indicating the thin end of the wedge in undermining the protection on the last great unaltered catchment in NZ.

NZRCA has submitted in support of Forest and Bird's application. Hearings commence 14th May 2007.

Wairehu Playhole

Mike Birch has been liaising with Genesis Energy and the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre (OPC) for addressing the funding shortfall for the playhole. After consulting with the kayak community, the NZRCA executive voted (at a meeting in Pio Pio on 5 November 2006) in favour of foregoing ten releases on the Tongariro River (below Poutu Intake only), in return for Genesis Energy meeting the funding shortfall. This means that for the next ten years there will be two days of releases per year instead of three. Releases below Rangipo dam on the Tongariro River and on the Whakapapa River are unaffected. Further funding was obtained by OPC from the Huckleberrys trust in Turangi.

Duncan Catanach successfully reapplied for NZ Community Trust funding for $30,000 towards the Wairehu Playhole at the end of 2006. The playhole has been completed, but still needs to undergo testing. Provided this goes well, it will be opened to the public in late May 2007.

Central Plains Water (CPW)

CPW is a proposed irrigation scheme in Canterbury, which if approved, will be the country's largest irrigation scheme and apparently also the largest construction project. NZRCA opposes it on grounds of lost amenity on the Waimakariri River (which will be flatlined through much of summer) and also on environmental grounds. Robin Rutter-Baumann, Jonathan Hunt and Tony Ward-Holmes, plus others from various local organisations, helped organise a protest outside Christchurch City Council buildings which drew one hundred and fifty people with about fifty kayaks. The protest featured on national TV news. NZRCA will appear at hearings for the CPW resource consents in June.

Canterbury Water

Jonathan Hunt and Tony Ward-Holmes represented NZRCA at a presentation at Christchurch's Great Hall organised by Chris Todd of Forest & Bird and Sam Mahon. Approximately one hundred and fifty people turned up. Ian Gill-Fox, our local Hukunui River expert came along and did a great job presenting on behalf of NZRCA and kayakers in general. Sam and Chris are founding an email/web network called to network all the Canterbury water organisations. Wecan (their regional council election group) candidates captured no council seats but still a significant number of votes last time and it is very possible they can win some seats this time. This would be a lot more likely if they get help from all the advocacy groups, NZRCA included.

Conservation And Water Policy

The NZRCA is doing its best to educate policy makers of our interests, e.g. helping them realise the importance of what seem to us as self-evident concepts, such as preserving natural river ecosystems and getting minimum recreational flows.

Living Rivers is a coalition of Fish & Game NZ, Forest & Bird, Federated Mountain Clubs, Ecologic, Water Rights Trust. It has been trying to launch a national clean waters campaign, but has suffered from lack of coordination. NZRCA continues to support Living Rivers in these resource-competitive times. Patron Hugh Canard represents NZRCA on Living Rivers. Hugh has also been attending two separate series of meetings for programmes which impact on NZRCA:

  1. Sustainable Water Programme of Action (SWPoA) run by MfE and MAF. This will result in high level policy statements on how water is managed in New Zealand. Hugh is now on two Reference Groups - NGOs and Environmental and Recreational Flows.
  2. Canterbury Strategic Water Storage Study. This is run by Environment Canterbury and is a lengthy and exhausting process of deciding where water could be stored in Canterbury, catchment by catchment.

Hugh has attended about fifteen whole day meetings to date, including two in Wellington, and there are probably a similar number to follow. The benefits of Hugh's attendance:

  • Recreation would hardly be considered in the development-oriented atmosphere that prevailed at the outset, with heavy representation from irrigators, energy, regional councils, NZ Federated Farmers, and scientists with an economic bias.
  • NZRCA is seen to be participating, along with Fish & Game, and Forest & Bird etc.
  • There is a better understanding of our views than at the outset - and vice versa.
  • There is an opportunity to influence high level government policies that the next two generations of paddlers will have to live with.


Throughout the year there has been a continuation of the work spreading information about didymo. Duncan Catanach and Robin Rutter-Baumann have attended meetings with Biosecurity New Zealand.

Environment Bay of Plenty have set up a cleaning station at Sunspots Kayak Shop in Rotorua and Genesis Energy have generously supplied cleaning stations for the Tongariro releases. Feedback from paddlers on the use of "Simple Green" for the releases resulted in Mike Birch researching alternative cleaning agents. Household disinfectant has proven to be cheaper and less foamy and slippery.

Robin Rutter-Baumann and Mike Birch created a didymo flyer for explaining the cleaning procedure and arranging for this to be distributed through kayak shops and Department of Conservation. Thanks to DoC Southland, who printed and distributed thousands of copies to all DoC offices.

Mike Birch has represented NZRCA on the Central North Island Didymo Action Group (DAG). Department of Conservation (DoC) employed Mike to develop a basic website for communicating news about didymo ( DoC Tongariro has also employed kayaker Mark Eames in an advocacy role to spread "Check, Clean, Dry" message to kayakers at rivers and events around the country. They are also planning to purchase some plastic bins for Mark to give away to kayakers on his travels. DAG members (including Mike Birch) spent two days in Queenstown at a didymo workshop with regional DoC managers from all over New Zealand. Biosecurity are planning to print 10,000 NZRCA didymo flyers, some of which are to be used by kayak manufacturers for supplying with new boats.


Support from major and minor clubs continues. While membership in total has not increased during the year, it is pleasing to see the continuing support of all of our major clubs including:

  • Auckland University Canoe Club (AUCC)
  • Hawkes Bay Canoe Club
  • Kupe Canoe Club
  • Nelson Canoe Club
  • Northland Canoe Club
  • Otago Canoe and Kayak Club (OCKC)
  • Ruahine Canoe Club, Hutt Valley Canoe Club
  • University of Canterbury Canoe Club (UCCC)
  • Whitewater Canoe Club (WWCC)

Also we have good support from our minor clubs including:

  • Manukau Canoe and Adventure Club
  • River City Canoe Club
  • Rotorua Kayak Club
  • Waikato Kayak Club
  • Wairarapa Paddlers

Several clubs which have significant memberships have opted to remain as associate members rather than taking full club membership, including Central Otago Whitewater Club (COW), Southland Canoe Club and New Plymouth Kayak Club. We hope they will eventually rejoin as full members in the future.

This year saw the return of River City Canoe Club (Wanganui) as well as new clubs from Auckland (AUTKC), Buller High School and Scripture Youth Camps.

As at April 2007 only five clubs have not renewed their membership. These are:

  • Kaimai Canoe Club
  • Westland Canoe Club
  • Palmerston North Canoe Club
  • Victoria University Canoe Club
  • Otago University Canoe Club

Associate membership has been steady with support from a number of schools and outfitters.

Individual membership remains static with an encouraging number of new members but a similar number of "return to senders" as well.

Jonathan Hunt has started maintaining the NZRCA Membership database via FileMaker Pro, based on a feed of data from Alan Bell.


Tekapo Course

Communications Officer, Robin Rutter-Baumann has assisted the Access Officer, Graeme McIntyre by attending meetings with Meridian Energy in Christchurch.

Since November 2006 discussions have been held with Meridian regarding the Tekapo Whitewater course and the recreational releases on the river. Meridian are keen to support the full utilisation of the course, which would require the Trust that manages it to do some course maintenance and development work. Unfortunately, the Trust has few active trustees and no funding stream. Meridian have proposed a scheme whereby it would "buy back" the water that the Consent Agreement requires it to spill each year but is not able to be used on the course. In this proposal the NZRCA would surrender it's right to require the full amount of water to be spilled for a seven year period and during that time the Trust would receive money equal to the value of that water to maintain the course. Having such a funding stream would hopefully rekindle interest in the trust and enable it to secure active trustees who could then raise funds to do the development work. With this proposal there would be now fewer course release days than presently occur, just less wasted water.

Mangahao River releases

We have had the same ups and downs with the March release as we have had for the last few years. The Mangahao Joint Venture (MJV) is finding it difficult to provide a March release perhaps for reasons other than lack of rain, although March can often be a dry period. A release has been set for 15 Sept 2007 to replace the March 2007 release. Graeme has discussed concerns about the March release dates being cancelled with Paul Robinson (MJV station manager).

Ngāwapurua Rapids

President, Mike Birch, has met with, and written to the Tauhara North No.2 Trust regarding access to the rapids (Fulljames), but no further progress has been made.

Huka Falls Extreme Race

Tauranga kayaker Mike Dawson attempted to organise an invitation only extreme race at Huka Falls in March 2007, but Mighty River Power declined his request for a suitable river flow. Mike Birch is writing to Mighty River to question the basis of this decision.


This year the NZRCA has subsidised eight river safety courses reaching fifty individuals plus a group from Whitewater Canoe Club (Christchurch), who had a specially designed course. The following kayak instructors ran courses: Mick Hopkinson (one), Ian Logie (two), Linda Wensley (one), Don Paterson (two) and Matt Barker (three).

Education Officer, Matt Barker, organised a safety and rescue seminar in Murchison in January, where rescue research was presented to NZOIA Kayak 2 award holders. Rescue course practice was discussed. The current NZRCA safety and rescue syllabi were discussed and suggestions made for changes. The course design and syllabi have since been re-written and are now ready for approval by the NZRCA executive and are to be published for the new season.

The NZRCA has applied to Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) for a grant of $7200.00 to subsidise up to seventy-two individuals for safety and rescue courses in the coming year.

Matt presented his river rescue research at the ISEA 2006 conference in Munich in July and has been published in their book "The Engineering of Sport".

He has been communicating with NZOIA to add our support to their WSNZ grant application for club instructor subsidised training.

Matt has also been involved with NZOIA Kayak 1 training and assessment courses where he has been able to push the NZRCA and Didymo messages.


This year has been relatively busy. There have been two fatal kayaking accidents: one on the Waihou River in October and the second on the Waikaia River in January. Both of these accidents have been investigated: the first by a Maritime NZ investigator and the second by the NZRCA Safety Officer, Glenn Murdoch. Both reports are now with Maritime NZ for comments, amendments and release.

Maritime NZ representatives have met with kayakers including NZRCA representatives Mike Birch and Glenn Murdoch throughout New Zealand to informally discuss their commercial kayaking discussion paper.

The NZRCA's relationship with Maritime NZ is an ongoing issue. They have indicated that they have made a commitment to paddle sports in general, and this is manifesting in several ways. They have made positive improvements to Rule 91 with regard to PFDs, which means that small manufacturers in NZ will be able to continue to offer us quality products. They have indicated that they have made some changes to Rule 91, but the NZRCA has not been informed of the details.

There still isn't a formal agreement between Maritime NZ and NZRCA regarding consistently employing technical experts to investigate kayaking accidents, but Maritime NZ have indicated that they are looking at it.

Last year Safety Officer, Glenn Murdoch, and Communications Officer, Robin Rutter-Baumann attended the Jet Boating New Zealand (NZJBA) AGM. They spoke to them about river signals and ways to ensure kayaker safety. This has led to Robin having a further two meetings during which a Memorandum of Understanding has been drafted. NZJBA will distribute to local associations before it will be finalised -hopefully by August this year.


Communications Officer, Robin Rutter-Baumann caught up with Mikey Abbott and Dave Ritchie over the summer and presented them with their Canoeist of The Year trophies (2005 for Mikey and 2006 for Dave). Both were really pleased to receive these and it was great to see how much it meant to them to be acknowledged in this way. They both made mention of how much work goes on behind the scenes to ensure NZRCA is a viable lobby force and our rivers continue to flow freely. The NZRCA relies on local kayakers to help preserve New Zealand's whitewater resources and acknowledges the considerable efforts by various members of the kayaking community.

Editor, Guido Wassink, produced three issues of NZ Canoeing (latest edition is at the printers). Featured were a lot of topical river issues and particular emphasis was put on river management in the future in light of the ever-increasing pressure of hydro-development. The NZRCA didymo flyer was included with the last edition. Guido digitised the NZRCA NZ Canoeing archive from 1978 (Nine hundred pages!). These will, in time, be posted on

NZ Canoe Federation

Vice-President Tony Ward-Holmes is the NZRCA representative on the NZ Canoe Federation (NZCF), which is the umbrella group encompassing Canoe Racing NZ (i.e. flatwater), Canoe Polo, Slalom, Freestyle, Dragon Boating is beginning to rebuild its relationship with Sport & Recreation New Zealand (SPARC). SPARC is now funding some of their administration costs, some of which filters down to NZRCA. There are moves from some of the competitive disciplines to rename and reorganise NZCF to better cater for Olympic and other demands.


The website and mailing lists continue to be hosted by the Wellington City Council on the Turtle machine, with our database and additional pages hosted by Egressive Ltd., Christchurch. Hosting needs to be reviewed in the near future (as outlined below). There has been a steady stream additional of news items and articles, events and releases, and incident reports. Over the year, webmaster Jonathan Hunt continued migrating functions and content to a Drupal 5.x-based system ( 2.0). Events and releases have been migrated, joining new news and articles. Support has been added for donations via Paypal. The Drupal-based site offers an exciting platform for a highly functional and interactive website, offering social networking features and ways of gathering river usage data in an ongoing survey.

Jonathan regularly deleted spam from the forums, links page, and mailing lists. Plans for Wellington Community Network's Turtle machine are yet to be realised. For this and other reasons (ability to handle Gallery2, subversion code management and so on) a move to hosting at an alternative host (e.g. is being considered.

Jonathan continued work on a New Zealand River Database, on 2.0, and incorporating guide information, along with data from the River Use Survey and other datasets available to the NZRCA. Tony Ward-Holmes and Jonathan met with Graham Charles regarding use of his content; the meeting was positive but more discussion is needed. This will remain a major focus of work for the next year.

Website usage has shown a significant year-on-year increase. Page views are now often in excess of 500,000/month, with audience often above 10,000 unique visitors/month making the website a very significant communications channel for the NZRCA.

(Refer to PDF version for usage charts.)


2007 saw a reprinting of the sixteenth edition of the Whanganui River Guide to cope with demand, and a high demand for the new edition of New Zealand Whitewater (by Graham Charles) occurred over the Christmas period. The digital archiving of meeting documents is now standardised. Jonathan Hunt has been experimenting with tracking Exec action points and motions via Google docs (allowing multiple authorship). Editor, Guido Wassink successfully applied to the Lion Foundation for funding to purchase Indesign as the NZRCA's publishing platform.


Financial Performance

Operating surplus of $6,101 was up $3,391 on the previous year.

Revenue increased $7,400. There was a 23% increase in annual subscriptions of $2,100 as well as some $4,200 in contributions received from NZ organisations. Interest on term deposit was up $1,700. Donations increased by almost $400. Revenue from publications was down $1,000 activity in Whanganui River Guide sales and newsletter distribution down and New Zealand Whitewater sales up with the publication of the fourth edition. $137.50 in accounts receivable was written off as unrecoverable.

Expenditure increased $4,000. Administration costs more than doubled to $9,583, reflecting increased committee attendance at three face-to-face meetings compared with two in the previous year in addition to last year's Turangi AGM. $1,000 was paid in subscriptions and donations. Net cost of publications fell by $500. Conservation costs were down almost $1,600 and web site maintenance costs were down $100. Administration Officer, Anne Smith, again worked on a voluntary basis and drew no honorarium.

Financial Position and Movement in Equity

NZRCA net wealth was $34,834 at the end of the financial period. Assets and liabilities remained high. A $30,000 grant from the New Zealand Community Trust was held on account pending an invoice for the nearly completed Wairehu play hole project. There were no accounts payable and receivables were down $90. There was a fifteen-fold increase in river safety course subsidies paid from $480 in the previous year to $7,100. The consequent over subscription of Water Safety New Zealand funds has been shown in current liabilities in anticipation of the next round of funding. Should WSNZ funding not be available the $1,500 shortfall will be met from general funds.

NZRCA equity increased by $6,101 from $28,733 at the beginning of the period (subject to confirmation of WSNZ funding).

Annual Audit of Accounts

WHK Cook Adam completed an independent audit of 2004/05 and 2005/06 accounts on 28 February 2007. It a qualified opinion WHK found financial reports for both years fairly reflected the financial position of the Society as at 31 March for each year respectively. Copies of the audit documents are available from the Treasurer.

In a management letter WHK recommended all expenditure items (invoices, expense claims etc.) be signed as approved by a member of the committee. In the past NZRCA has relied upon the requirement of two signatures on each cheque and committee approval of the cheque register as the crucial controls on expenditure. To comply with NZ accounting practice as far as possible all expenditure items from 1 April 2006 will be signed by a member of the committee (other than the Treasurer).

(Refer to PDF version for financial tables.)