Annual Report 2008

NZRCA President Mike Birch presents the Annual Report to Members for 2008.

The focus of the past year has been the challenges presented by conservation issues. Many of our rivers are under serious threat as detailed in the conservation section of this report.

A strategy session at last year's AGM identified the NZRCA website as being crucial to the success of the NZRCA. The upcoming launch of an on-line NZ River Guide will play a large part in the future effectiveness of the NZRCA as an advocacy organisation.

There have been no new faces on to the executive in the past year, but Guido Wassink and Kieron Thorpe are both leaving to travel overseas. Thanks go to Guido for his time and effort in editing and publishing NZ Canoeing, and to Kieron for his efforts in compiling submissions and other conservation work. Thanks too to all the other members of the executive for continuing to work hard on a voluntary basis.


"Water is renewable, river environments are not"

Government's Renewable Energy Strategy

2007/2008 could be characterised as the "year that turned" - when the Government's renewable energy strategy become reality. What is the reality? The reality is that the Government has decided that 90% of all electricity generation will be "renewable energy, which includes geothermal, wind and hydro. The reality is that while water is renewable, river environments are not, and hydro schemes almost always damage a river ecosystem permanently. The reality is that a plethora of hydro schemes (including many of our favourite rivers) are on the drawing boards and that Government policy is being designed to make it easier to get hydro schemes approved. The reality is that it is hard to reconcile the Government's desire for "sustainability" with destroying river environments forever.

National Environment Standards

The NZRCA has been contributing as it can to the policy debate. Hugh Canard, the NZRCA's patron, was asked by the Ministry of Environment to develop a national environmental standard (NES) around river flows. This sets a standard, which RMA applicants must meet, in their environmental assessments when they apply for a resource consent. Unfortunately, the contribution of Hugh and others has been ignored in the recently released National Environmental Standard on minimum rivers flows, which is being presented in a roadshow to main centres throughout the country shortly. The proposed standard is disastrous for kayakers as the criteria are purely ecological. Recreational flow requirements are generally far higher for a river than ecological requirements, and this will mean that no legislated standard is required of the applicant when assessing recreational effects and the NZRCA will have to start from "ground zero" at every hearing.

An alternative process mooted by the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development does include recreational criteria. At the moment, however its arguments would seem to be drowned out by the Government's programme.

Government's Carbon Emissions Trading Scheme

The NZRCA submitted on the Government's carbon emissions trading scheme. The Government has given the agricultural and industrial sectors preferential treatment. This means that renewable energy will have to bear the brunt in reducing carbon emissions and this means more hydro schemes. The NZRCA presented on this issue at Parliament and the good thing was the "water is renewable but rivers are not" message was picked up by the media. Whether there is any change in Government policy is another matter!

Rivers under threat

The Government is resolute in its quest for renewable energy - rivers will be lost forever as a result of these policy changes.

Here's a list of paddling rivers listed in Electricity Commission or Transpower official documents from the last six months that are potentially on the chopping block in the next 20 or so years:

North Island

  • Kaituna River- "lower", "upper" and Okere Falls
  • Whakapapanui River
  • Papamanuka Stream
  • Tarawera River - at lake outlet, Falls and Te Matae Rd
  • Mohaka River - lower (as early as 2010)
  • Rangitaiki River (at Kiorenui)
  • Ruakituri River- Waitangi Falls
  • Pohangina River
  • Mangawhero River
  • Whangaehu River

South Island

  • Mokihinui River
  • Waitaha River
  • Matiri River
  • Clarence River (possible diversion to Waiau River)
  • Arahura River
  • Taipo River
  • Toaroha River (potentially by 2011)
  • Kakapotahi River (potentially by 2012)
  • Nevis River
  • Wairau River

We won't be able to fight all battles - we'll need to make some choices on what rivers we will "die in a ditch for" as some hydro will inevitably go ahead. But we also need to make politicians, decision makers and the general public (including other kayakers) realise what is at stake. The media is slowly starting to pick up on the issue (Wilderness magazine published a feature article in its February 2008 magazine on this topic with substantial contribution from the NZRCA) but the time for action is now - we all need to get the message out there.

Activity in the North Island has focussed on two things - responding to the Government's strategy and campaigns around specific rivers, particularly the Mokau River and the Kaituna River:

Mokau River

The Mokau fight is on hold, but will resume in the Environment Court probably later in 2008. Thanks to a successful application to the Ministry for the Environment's ELA Fund, NZRCA (along with New Plymouth Kayak Club) has significant funding to help pay for legal expenses.

Kaituna River

A few years ago Bay of Plenty Electricity (BOPE) applied to DoC to inundate part of the Upper Kaituna Scenic Reserve which abuts Awesome Gorge on the Kaituna River. The NZRCA submitted on this concession application earlier in 2007 as it would ruin Awesome Gorge forever and Gnarly Gorge would only be runnable if there were releases. The initial Bay of Plenty Conservancy report said it shouldn't go ahead. Following public submissions another independent Conservator (quoting our submission extensively) also recommended that the Kaituna dam application be declined. Two days before the Christmas break, the Director General of the Department of Conservation gave effect to the Government's energy strategy and did a backflip and gave BOPE a 60 year concession. The NZRCA is considering a judicial appeal as this decision is based on a highly questionable legal technicality. Unfortunately the Government has indicated that it might preempt this sort of appeal in the future by pushing through a change to the Conservation Act to more easily allow renewable energy on Conservation land.

Arnold River

The Arnold negotiations were led by a kayaking group including locals Andy England and Dave Ritchie, and for NZRCA Maree Baker, Kieron Thorpe and Tony Ward-Holmes. It was only after much consultation and soul-searching that kayakers entered into negotiations with Trustpower before the consent hearing. Usually kayakers simply oppose development of rivers, and negotiation only happens between the hearing and Environment Court. In the case of the Arnold, kayakers judged they had a very small chance of stopping the project entirely, but a good chance of gaining significant mitigation in the form of a whitewater park built below the power station. Agreement was finally reached three days before the hearing commenced, whereby the whitewater course will be built to a standard approved by a world expert such as Scott Shipley.

This outcome represents a significant mitigation deal, in the light of the relatively small size of the power scheme (40MW?), and the likelihood of its receiving consent. Furthermore it will improve the NZRCA's reputation as an organisation with principles yet one that is prepared to work and develop compromises where suitable and beneficial - basically a sensible bunch of people. The kayaking group worked with other organisations (West Coast Development Trust, Grey District Council, Tai Poutini Polytechnic) towards an integrated approach to developing outdoor education and adventure tourism in the area, on the Coast and around New Zealand.

Hurunui River

The Hurunui is under threat from a proposal to control the outlet and level of Lake Sumner, and hence its outflow to the river, and to dam the south branch of the river, for irrigation purposes.

Fish & Game NZ and NZRCA have combined to apply for a Water Conservation Order for the Hurunui River. This is an historic step for the NZRCA, which hitherto had only supported applications made by Fish & Game or Forest & Bird. The Hurunui is one of the best and most popular learning rivers in the country and is heavily utilised by NZRCA's largest member club, the Whitewater Canoe Club.

Central Plains Water

The CPW consent applications are currently been heard by Environment Canterbury. More than 1400 people submitted and the hearings are expected to take more than six months. NZRCA is expecting to be heard in May or June, along with local member club Whitewater Canoe Club and affiliate Arawa Canoe Club. The CPW Assessment of Environmental Effects made no mention of the iconic Coast-to-Coast race nor other popular events such as the Brass Monkey Series. The AEE for the actual water take has just this to say about kayaking: "Reducing the mainstream riffle depth is possibly of greater concern to activities that require longer lengths of river, such as the jet boaters and canoeists / kayakers, who require a minimum water depth of 0.2 and 0.1 metres respectively". This is obviously written by someone who has done no research at all on what they are talking about. Worryingly, this seems to be symptomatic of all the AEEs, which are similarly shallow on many important issues even including the project's impact on Christchurch city drinking water. The NZRCA contends this is unacceptable for a project which would be NZ's largest civil engineering project, should it proceed.

Ten mile Creek

Mining company Redcar Ltd has applied to dump waste material into Ten Mile Creek, a flood run north of Greymouth. NZRCA along with West Coast locals has submitted in opposition.

Mokihinui River

The Mokihinui River is a beautiful wilderness run paddleable by intermediate kayakers. Meridian proposes to drown the entire main stem for which there is no mitigation possible for kayakers. The North Branch is a classic grade 4 creek, which will also be made much less attractive due to a 14km flatwater paddle-out after a long and testing run. DOC rates the Mokihinui seventh nationally for its heritage and natural values, a rating much higher than for for any other river threatened by a hydro project. Meridian commissioned a study, which concluded there was no possible mitigation for these values, which was then buried but has recently come to light via an Official information Act request. Robin Rutter-Baumann compiled the NZRCA's submission opposing Meridian's resource consent application.

Wairehu Playhole

The playhole was tested on 5 July 2007. Unfortunately, the water over the structure was too shallow and kayaker Brett Donaldson hit his nose on the appendage (downstream of the hole) on his first ride. Genesis Energy engaged Scott Shipley to assist with modifications to the playhole structure. The work was completed in April 2008 and is awaiting testing before being opened to the public.

New Zealand River Recreation Use Survey

Jonathan Hunt discussed the "New Zealand River Recreation Use Survey" with Shayne Galloway on numerous occasions and helped promote the survey via Its utility for NZRCA remains to be seen.


During the year there has been encouraging response to renewal notices sent out. Support from major and minor clubs continues with a number of new individual members. It is noted that the momentum and therefore awareness of and willingness to affiliate to NZRCA often depends on a small number of club members. Therefore, when these particular members disappear or change roles, the NZRCA connection is sometimes lost. Perhaps the most important role of the Membership Officer (Alan Bell) is to keep up to date with such changes and liaise with the appropriate members.

Membership is stable with support from most 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
  • Whitewater Canoe Club (WWCC)

Recently the Otago University CC affiliated 53 members which is a boost to numbers. On the down side, a larger club, University of Canterbury Canoe Club (UCCC) has not responded to renewal notices.

There is good support from minor clubs including:

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

Several clubs who have significant memberships have opted to remain as Associates rather than be Full clubs including: Central Otago Whitewater, Southland and New Plymouth. Hopefully, they will eventually rejoin as full members.

However, several minor clubs have gone "off the radar" over the past year or two with no response to renewal notices including:

  • Kaimai Canoe Club
  • Palmerston North Canoe Club
  • Victoria University Canoe Club
  • Huka Falls Canoe Club
  • New Plymouth Kayak Club

It should be noted here that some of these clubs do have members who are individually affiliated to NZRCA.

Associate membership has been steady with a number of schools and outfitters continuing to support the NZRCA including Rasdex, Day Two and Mission Kayaking.

Individual membership remains static with an encouraging number of new members but a similar number of "return to senders" as well. This situation appears "normal" as many NZRCA members are young and mobile. On the other end of the scale there is solid support from people like John Mackay, Geoff Price and Doug Rankin (to name just a few), which is very heartening.


The 2007-2008 year has moved along steadily, with the work between the NZRCA, Meridian and the Tekapo Trust coming to an agreement on water supply and upgrades to the Tekapo slalom site.

Tekapo Course and Releases

The Tekapo recreational releases for the 2007/2008 were completed on the 6th April. Planning will need to begin for the new schedule that starts in October. Schools and other large groups will be encouraged to preplan their requests to minimise the number of changes that are required after the flow agreement has been approved by the three parties in November.

Wairoa River Releases

The Wairoa River (Bay of Plenty) releases have been well attended. A letter was handed out to paddlers by a landowner, asking them to write into the Western Bay of Plenty District Council Chief Executive (BoP) to request the continued access to the private property on SH 29 get out. The reason for this letter is still a bit unclear even after discussions with paddlers and BoP, but the NZRCA wrote a letter requesting access to continue. The reply from BoP stated that BoP was well aware of the usage and will bear our request in mind, but is not in any position to guarantee any permanent access, as the land in question is private land.

Mangahao River Releases

The Mangahao iver releases have been inconsistent due to a lack of water in the catchment. The extra release that was planned for September 2007 was cancelled and the March 2008 release has been deferred. King Country Energy advised the NZRCA that "... Mangahao hydro scheme and a number of other NZ reservoirs are currently experiencing below average inflows and in some regions drought conditions exist. The country is also under pressure due to the loss of key generating plant about the North Island. The de-rating of the Cook Strait cable has also compounded the NI generation shortage. As a result of the above, the Mangahao Autumn release is hereby deferred to the spring release period 1st Sep through to 1st Nov 2008. This means that there will be three recreational release events in the Sep/Oct 08 consent window. The MJV hereby issues the deferral under Mangahao Resource consent 913175 conditions 9.1 and 9.2. Note that on the 1st Feb 08 all canoe slalom events down stream of the power station (EWWPT events) were also cancelled." Graeme McIntyre has had further discussions with King Country Energy and has been shown records that confirm this statement. However Graeme still has some concerns relating to the releases that can be discussed at future NZRCA meetings.

Tongariro River Releases

The Tongariro River releases have been going well with a small drop in numbers, which is to be expected after the initial novelty of the first releases in 2005. However, there have been a lot of intermediate paddlers attending these flows and it fills a gap for these people.

Genesis Energy began a significant maintenance programme on the Poutu canal in early 2008. The works began in early January and were expected to take up to four months to complete. However, due to the drought, the programme was postponed at the beginning of February and resumed on the 25 March 2008 and is planned to finish on the 25 May 2008. Work will need to be done for another two months next year, probably in April and May 2009. During the work the Tongariro River below Poutu Intake was expected have flows between 30 and 35 cumecs, but due to the drought the natural flow was lower, and even below the 16 cumec minimum at times.

The Waikaremoana releases have not been well attended with some flow cancelled due to the lack of numbers. The NZRCA could promote these dates better, and communication with the Hawkes Bay club could also be improved.

Aerial access to Mt Aspiring National Park

DOC's draft Management Plan for Mt Aspiring National Park classifies most of the park as Remote or Wilderness Area, which by definition means no aerial access is allowed. Exceptions are made for deer hunting and mountaineering, but not for kayaking. A result of the plan is that aerial access to the mega-classic Waiatoto River would become illegal. The Waipara River has already become illegal due to the gazetting of the Olivines Wilderness Area (with no consultation with kayakers) and many potential future hard classics would also be barred. Maree Baker, Craig Adams and Glenn Murdoch have met with DOC over their plans, and Hugh Canard and Tony Ward-Holmes have produced a submission.

Ngawapurua Rapids

Access to Ngawapurua (Fulljames) rapids is still being worked on by Mike Birch, who has been meeting with the Tauhara North No.2 Trust.


The NZRCA river safety and rescue courses have continued to be a success this year after rolling out our new syllabi at the beginning of the season. NZRCA applied for and successfully drew down a grant of $7200.00 from Water Safety NZ to enable NZRCA to subsidise safety courses for its members and member organisations. Four member organizations (Nelson CC, WW Slalom NZ, White Water Canoe Club, and Waikato Kayak Club) and 38 individuals received a total subsidy of $3140.00 so far this season. Further courses have been booked by Waikato Kayak Club, Otago University Canoe Club and Colenso Paddlers, which will attract subsidy funding in about May 2008.

An application to WSNZ was made for the 2008-2009 season for $7200.00 for safety and rescue courses and a further application has been made for $5500.00 to be used to support the safety and skills training of clubs with a youth focus.

Matt Barker (NZRCA Education Officer) presented his research on white water rescue methods and equipment at the ONZ sponsored "The Confluence" a 4-day international outdoor education and recreation conference in January this year held at Lincoln University near Christchurch.


Maritime NZ

While the NZRCA still doesn't have a formal agreement with Maritime NZ (MNZ) around using expert kayakers to investigate kayaking accidents, MNZ continues to employ kayakers to do so. We don't have any guarantee that this will continue, but the current trend is reason for optimism.

Kaituna River drowning

There has been one drowning in the past year, this time in Awesome Gorge on the Kaituna River. In a fairly unlucky accident, a kayaker became pinned under a log in a very narrow section of the gorge. The logs were forming an X; the other kayakers managed to make their way past, and the third was pinned between the trees. Andi Uhl investigated this accident for MNZ. Thanks to Andi for a good job with that.

Greater Wellington Regional Council Disputes Tribunal Hearing

Last year, Glenn Murdoch helped a Wellington kayaker win a case at a Disputes Tribunal hearing against the Greater Wellington Regional Council. His kayak had become wrapped around a submerged railway iron, which the Council had placed in the river as part of an old erosion protection works. The groynes had since washed away as the river course moved, leaving only the vertical railways irons. The Disputes Tribunal agreed with us that the Council had a responsibility to mitigate against the hazard that these river works posed. This is very positive in that it helps set a legal precedent for anybody who places a structure in a river, even if it is consented, to manage its safety even after its useful life has passed.

Mountain Safey Council National Incident Database

Jonathan Hunt had several discussions with Paul Chaplow of MSC regarding their National Incident Database. There is some scope to merge efforts if they redevelop their system. Also, research into incident databases by Pam Smartt (Otago) could be beneficial.


Editor, Guido Wassink, produced another two issues of NZ Canoeing. River safety and topical conservation issues featured prominently throughout these issues as pressure on our rivers from the hydro-development corner continues to increase. Our existing publishing platform program, pagemaker 6.5, used to compile the NZCanoeing newsletter, has been upgraded to the more current and dynamic Adobe Indesign CS2. As a reader, this should have become noticeable in the shape of a style revamp introduced over the last several editions, which should make the magazine more entertaining and compelling to read. An online free-for-download copy of the newsletter (/sites/default/files/NZCanoeing_2007_02.pdf) has also been made available to engage the wider kayaking community that visit


After years of talking and gradual progress a significant effort by Jonathan Hunt saw the migration of the NZRCA website and email from Turtle (Wellington City Council) to Smithers (Egressive). At Egressive, the hosting has been rationalised down to a single system (Warhol has been dropped). Site files are managed by Subversion, and we are benefiting from PHP5 and other more up-to-date features.

There has been a reasonably steady stream additional of news items and articles, events and releases, and incident reports but there haven't been many substantial contributions of new content.

The site content is partway through a migration to the Drupal Content Management System (CMS). Already the migration to a CMS is providing an opportunity for Mike Birch, Guido Wassink, Alan Bell and others to add content. News, events and about 50% of articles are managed by the CMS. A few 'static' pages are also on the CMS (e.g. NZ Canoeing).

Jonathan Hunt regularly deleted spam from the forums, links page, and mailing lists. Forum spam was dramatically reduced with the introduction of CAPTCHA tests.

During the year Graham Charles agreed to make his guide book material available to the NZRCA's long-running River Database project. This should be launched as the NZRCA River Guide along with a new website look and feel as soon as a revised site design can be implemented and remaining key functions migrated to the CMS; major pieces of work will be the forums, along with Links page and search.

Many additional features (email newsletter, online membership management, advertising) remain on the todo list due to lack of time and resources.

The Drupal-based site will offer 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. The rapid global deployment of social networking web applications in the realm of advocacy groups is a massive opportunity to increase the NZRCA's reach and effectiveness.


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.

(Note: When interpreting Page views, be aware that awstats on Turtle replaced an external tracking service in January 2004. Also, values for 2008 have been disrupted by the transitions between host systems so are unreliable.)


The Guide to the Whanganui River

There is potential for more sales of the guide and the latest edition has proved popular with overseas buyers. A valuable opportunity exists to distribute information relating to didymo, NZRCA and environmental issues when delivering guides, and should be given consideration. A second reprint of one hundred copies was made in March 2007 to supplement the sixteenth edition, which was published in October 2006. The seventeenth edition will be updated and published later in 2008.

Thanks to Anne Smith for continuing to look after the NZRCA mail and administration on a voluntary basis.


Financial Performance

Operating surplus of $519 was down $5,582 on the previous year.

Revenue fell $10,150. Annual subscriptions were down $5,500 and there were no contributions from external organisations - $4,200 year ending March 2007. Interest on term deposit funds was down a little as near the end of the year New Zealand Community Trust Wairehu project funding was released to Genesis Energy. Donations increased by almost $400. Revenue from publications was down $621 - Whanganui River Guide and New Zealand Whitewater sales both down and a small increase in newsletter advertising.

Expenditure decreased $4,568. Administration costs fell 40% to $5,842, reflecting a travel saving in holding two face-to-face executive meetings instead of three during the year. $300 was paid in subscriptions and donations. Net cost of publications fell by $928. Conservation and Access costs were reasonably steady to the previous year, as was web site maintenance. Safety and Education was up $661. Depreciation rose to $400 with the final year on Filemaker Pro software and the first full year on Adobe Indesign.

Once again Anne Smith worked on a voluntary basis and drew no honorarium.

Financial Position and Movement in Equity

NZRCA net wealth was $35,353 at the end of the financial period. Assets and liabilities dropped significantly with release of the New Zealand Community Trust grant to Genesis Energy as a contribution to the Wairehu play hole project.

There were no accounts payable. Accounts receivable increased $7,728, made up of $7,200 invoiced to Water Safety New Zealand to uplift approved funding for river rescue and safety courses and the remainder being outstanding monies for newsletter advertising. Book value of software was depreciated $400.

NZRCA was $34,834 at the beginning of the period, and increased by $519.00.

Annual Audit of Accounts

WHK Cook Adam completed an independent audit of 2004/05 and 2005/06 accounts 28 February 2007. In its management letter WHK recommended all expenditure items (invoices, expense claims etc) be signed as approved by a member of the committee. From 1 April 2006 a member of the committee other than the treasurer has signed each item of expenditure.

Following the NZRCA Annual General Meeting 26 April 2008 WHK Cook Adam Ward Wilson will be commissioned to audit the accounts for year ended 31 March 2007 and year ended 31 March 2008.