Kaituna Hydro-project Lowdown

Overview of BOPE's plans for a dam that would destroy the Awesome Gorge section and dewater the Gnarly Gorge section on the Kaituna River

Bay of Plenty Electricity's (BOPE) proposal to dam the lower Kaituna Gorges has gained momentum with its recent application for a concession in order to flood some of the Department of Conservation's (DoC) scenic reserve on river left. It is to be emphasised that this section of the Kaituna River is under serious threat. BOPE is putting a lot of effort in their proposal and the landowner on river right, Taheke Inc., has given its blessing.

The 7m dam is proposed to be built halfway down the Awesome Gorge at the spot that sledgers use as a take-out. The water will be diverted into a canal for 2.5km ultimately feeding the power station, after which it will be released back into the river below the Gnarly Gorge. This leaves the river in between dry with all the water above the dam backed up to the Trout Pool Falls.

These gorges are unique in New Zealand. The only similar waterway is the Mangorewa which feeds into the Kaituna. However, this requires a specific flood flow and only enters a gorge system close to its confluence with the Kaituna. Not only does the Kaituna have spectacular scenery and whitewater, it is one of the few rivers in the North Island that flows all year.

Because the proposed scheme affects part of the Kaituna River Scenic Reserve, Bay of Plenty Electricity have to go through two approval processes - a concession process with DoC and the normal resource consent process:

  • Concession process A concession needs to be granted by the Bay of Plenty Conservancy (DoC) as the scheme will flood some of the scenic reserve. The power company has already made an application with DoC. If DoC decides to decline their concession application, that will be where it stops. They may also decide to give an "approval in principle" meaning that public submissions will be sought. Until this point, DoC doesn't have to consider any information that people send to them.
    Update: On 15 December 2006, DOC granted the concession without seeking kayaker input.
  • Resource consent process The hydro-power company is unlikely to apply for a resource consent until they have a DoC concession. Once they have got the concession, they will apply to Environment Bay of Plenty and submit an assessment of the effects of the dam on the environment including whitewater recreation. Paddlers will have the opportunity to submit on the resource consent.

What can you do?

  • Submit if DoC invites submissions on the concession.
  • Submit when the resource consent becomes public.
  • Register your interest about the proposed Kaituna dam.

Written by Duncan Catanach and Guido Wassink, with contributions from Mike Dawson, Donald Calder, Kenny Mutton and Johan Roozenburg.