A Water Conservation Order for the Hurunui River

Background on the application for a Water Conservation Order for the Hurunui River.


20 December 2010: Forest & Bird and Whitewater NZ have withdrawn their application for a Water Conservation Order on the Hurunui River.

What does this mean to you?

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Water Conservation Orders (WCOs) are a means of conferring status to a river for its "outstanding amenity or intrinsic values". In practice this means no dams and no major abstractions for irrigation. It can also prohibit alterations to the river bed and parts of the catchment. Thanks to the efforts of paddlers, fishers and conservationists, a number of rivers that we enjoy paddling are protected today:

The process involves a hearing at which people who apply and support the WCO make submissions in favour, and those people and organisations that oppose do the same and the Hearing Tribunal panel decides. Opposition usually comes from developers, farmers, hydro companies, and in general from those with an economic interest which involves either dams or considerably reduced flows.

Why the Hurunui?

Without the Hurunui kayaking would be a much smaller sport in Canterbury. It has rapids from class I and II to class III and sometimes IV. It flows consistently through a beautiful valley, and it's close to Christchurch.

The threats?

Power planners and irrigators have had their eye on the Hurunui for many years. The recent rush to develop Canterbury dry lands to dairy and grapes through irrigation is one driving force, and the other is a rush to 'renewable energy'.

There are schemes being proposed which will dam the South Branch, flooding a huge area of prime salmon spawning grounds and parts of a 'Mainland Island', and to build a dam across the outlet of Lake Sumner to store Spring flushes and then release this stored water during summer.

Kayakers see these schemes as taking away the variability of the river - the 50 to 150 cumecs runs early in the season, and also swamping the flows below 50 cumecs in summer. The higher flows are highly valued by class III-IV paddlers and the summer flows by everyone as Maori Gully develops pool drop rapids which are so enjoyable for both experts and intermediates, or even novices stepping up to their first class III run. The Hurunui has a different character at every flow and that is why we can keep paddling it time and time again.

What can you do?

First and foremost, what you do makes a difference. Individual opinions do count. What counts most are individual actions. Ask, listen, decide, then act.

  1. Become informed. Ask questions. Think about the cost to you personally of development versus the alternatives, and what the world without the Hurunui would be like.
  2. Talk to any of the more experienced paddlers in your local Club, or talk to members of the NZRCA Exec.
  3. Put in a submission before the 15th December. You don't have to say a lot or have a Ph.D. in resource management or be capable of running class V. Your views are what matters.

If you think the Hurunui is deserving of protection for future generations, then just say so and give your own reasons why.

If you need a guilt trip to motivate you, think about what you are going to say to your grand-children when they ask what you did when they dammed the Hurunui back in the olden days.

You can call the following:

Hugh Canard ph 332 3414
Graeme Wilson ph 027 480 2405
Ian Gill-Fox ph 027 479 4059
Tony Ward-Holmes ph 027 486 6994
Robin Rutter-Baumann ph 027 209 6101
Doug Rankin ph 03 942 1302

  1. Read the application:
  2. Download a pre-filled submission form relevant to kayakers (RTF, 37KB) and add your personal experience and contact details.
  3. Email it to the to the Ministry for the Environment: alex.miller@mfe.govt.nz and to legal counsel for the applicant: maree.baker@andersonlloyd.co.nz

As an example of what we're looking for, here is a great submission from Polly Miller (RTF, 25KB)