After four years of hard work, Fish and Game, with the support of the NZRCA and local kayakers, rafters and outdoor professionals have won the case for a Water Conservation Order on the Rangitata River.
Relevant to white water recreation are the Court's findings that the Upper Rangitata River, the Rangitata Gorge, and the Arundel section are outstanding on a national basis: the Upper Rangitata River for kayaking, the Rangitata Gorge for kayaking and rafting, and the Arundel section for "water based recreation" as one of the best examples of its type of grade II to III white water with easy access and safe boating, making it ideal for instruction, team building, personal growth/development courses, multisport and simple recreation.
The Court also found that these and other sections of the river are outstanding for salmon habitat, angling amenity, and native bird habitat. In order to protect all of these values as a whole, the Court recommended that no further abstraction above what is currently taken be allowed at normal flows. Currently approximately a third of the Rangitata's flow is abstracted for irrigation and stockwater.
The NZRCA took part in the Environment Court hearing which spanned seven weeks of hearing time in 2003 and 2004. Expert evidence was presented by Doug Rankin, Wayne Keenan (Peel Forest OPC), Hugh Canard (NZRCA Patron), Jonathan Hay (UCCC), Anna Williams (Aoraki Polytech), Grant South (Hidden Valleys) and Tussock (Rangitata Rafts). The Environment Court issued its decision on the sixth of August 2004. The decision largely confirmed the original findings of the Special Tribunal, in front of which the NZRCA also presented its case in support.
This is a great outcome for the NZRCA and reflects a lot of hard work over the last four years from both the NZRCA, its supporters, and those who took their own time to give evidence at the hearing. The WCO recommended by the Court will only take effect once the appeal period has expired, and once the Minister for the Environment makes it final.