Highlights from the Rangitata River WCO hearing

Highlights of the NZRCA's case supporting the WCO application for the Rangitata river. This article by Maree Baker also appeared in NZ Canoeing 02.1, Summer 2002.

The Ministry for the Environment has not yet released its decision on whether or not it will recommend a Water Conservation Order, as a result of the hearing attended in November. In the meantime here are some highlights that illustrate the theme of our case. Hopefully we will have good news by the time the next newsletter goes to print.

Our case ranged from the experienced and personal (Doug Rankin when he said:)
The first time I boated on the Rangitata river was 30 years ago in 1971, when a friend, John Parsloe, took me on a trip from the Klondyke intake down to the Cracroft intake with about four other people. We were all paddling canvas canoes.

To the technical (Linda Wesley):
In the Rangitata Gorge section of the river the combination of river flow, gradient and narrowing of the river provide rapids that demand the use of 'big water' techniques to successfully manoeuvre. With an increase in water level this 'big water' experience is increased. This section is an ideal introduction for students wanting to develop skills in paddling 'big water'.

The numerical (ie the River Survey, Jonathan Hunt):
The Rangitata Gorge is a nationally significant whitewater amenity, and the Waikari Station (Klondyke) to Peel Forest section is heavily used. Combined they represent a valuable resource for existing and future generations, worthy of protection from additional human interference.

The recreational (Tussock):
The Rangitata's flows are generally very reliable for rafting and kayaking - it never becomes too low to navigate and only occasionally becomes too high. However, its character does change with its varying flows. At low water (40-75 cumecs), the river is clear, the pools are deep and slow, the rapids are steep and there are many rocks to dodge. At high water (130+ cumecs), the river is discoloured, the waves and holes become bigger, the drops wash out, many rocks become covered and the rapids become more continuous. The constantly fluctuating river flow means that no two trips are ever identical and is one of the reasons why many people enjoy running the river over and over again.

And the legal/political/philosophical (Maree Baker):
Indeed for kayakers and rafters, the knowledge that a river is flowing freely from source to sea, with no dams or significant obstructions, gives it an intrinsic value for us. As a country that uses a high proportion of hydroelectricity, many outstanding rivers in New Zealand no longer from freely from source to sea, and this has a significant impact on the perception of the value of the remaining free flowing rivers. The fact this major river is still undammed, gives it an outstanding intrinsic value deserving of recognition and protection.

Watch this space!