Dam on Kaituna River, Bay of Plenty

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According to Bay of Plenty Electricity public consultation with affected parties has started for a proposed 7 m high dam which is going to be built half way down the Awesome Gorge section of the Kaituna River near Rotorua. Water is then diverted in a canal on the right bank for about 2.5 km until it drops 66 metres down a pipe into the power station where generators create some 15 to max. 20 MW.

It effectively means that the Kaituna River will be backed up to the so called Trout Pool Falls. Below the proposed weir only a marginal residual flow of around 5 cumes (average flow down the river during the year is 26 cumes) will be allowed, making the WW section below the weir unpaddleable. The "dry section" will affect the second half of Awesome Gorge (the tight gorge section with the waterfall) and the extremely difficult "Gnarly Gorge" which follows right after the Awesome Gorge take-out. Although "Gnarly Gorge" is rarely paddled it has been negotiated several times in the last couple of years by groups of up to 8 people and this section of the Kaituna River is undoubtedly the most scenic and extreme whitewater trip in the North Island, if not in New Zealand!

Bay of Plenty Electricity is planning to hand in their Resource Consent application as early as January 2005 (and as late as July 05). If you would like to be registered with BoP Electricity as an affected party who wants to be registered with them in order to get formal notification of the resource consent, please contact their Generation Manager:
John Smyth
Generation Manager
52 Commerce St.
PO Box 404
Whakatane 3080
Ph 0800 500 710 or 07-922 2700
Fax 07-307 0922
DDI 07-922 2709
Mobile 027-459 1757
email jsmyth@bopelec.co.nz

It is to be emphasised that this section of the Kaituna River is under very real and serious threat and anyone who would like to raise their concerns against this dam project is urged to get in touch with BoP Electricity.



kaituna's picture

Questions And Answers - Tuesday, 16 October 07
Wednesday, 17 October 2007, 9:43 am
Press Release: Office of the Clerk
Questions for Oral Answer - Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Energy Strategy—Electricity
6. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National —Nelson) to the Minister of Conservation: Does he share the goal of the Director-General of Conservation that "conservation is part of the infrastructure of New Zealand's future, particularly as the country meets the challenges of sustainability and climate change"; if so, is he satisfied his department is doing everything possible to assist the goal of New Zealand's electricity being 90 percent renewable by 2025 as per the recently announced Government Energy Strategy?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): Yes; and yes.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can anybody take this Government seriously over climate change and renewable energy when the Minister's department has been sitting on the application by Bay of Plenty Electricity for a concession over just 0.7 of a hectare—or 1 percent—of the Kaituna reserve, for over 2 years and 3 months, when that hydro station would save 33,000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year and renewably power 10,000 households, and when that scheme still has to be subject to a full resource consent process even if his department grants the concession?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The project that the member refers to is a complex project. It lies right next to land that is under reserve status and, just as with regard to the Arnold River, by moving through it properly, by negotiation, and by getting outcomes that everyone is happy with, we end up with a successful project. I am hopeful that we can do that in Kaituna, as well.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What did the Minister mean when he told Parliament on 5 December last year that "a decision on the Kaituna project is very imminent.", noting that 10 months have since passed and Bay of Plenty Electricity still does not have a decision?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I guess I am a sort of optimistic guy.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. How can the answer that he is an optimistic guy address the question of why the Minister told the House that a decision was very imminent at the beginning of December last year when 10 months later we do not have a decision? This process of questioning is about departmental accountability, and I think the Minister does need to be accountable for that sort of bureaucratic bungle by his department.

Madam SPEAKER: I do not know whether the Minister wishes to add anything further to his answer?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Perhaps my answer was a little flippant, but I hope that in my first answer I touched on the fact that this is actually a much more complicated case than it first appeared to be. Because of the proximity of land under reserve status, we are trying to accommodate the proposal and the reserve-status land. I can operate only within the law.

Jill Pettis: How is the Department of Conservation contributing to a sustainable future for New Zealand?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: The conservation estate already makes a major contribution to New Zealand's economic, environmental, and social infrastructure. Our natural environment underpins Brand New Zealand, driving our $18.6 billion tourism industry. Natural ecosystems provide the essential services that sustain life —for example, the tussock lands of Te Papanui Conservation Park. Conservation parks supply water for hydro generation, irrigation for farming, and drinking water for Dunedin. I see a member over there who thinks that it is funny; it is not funny to the people of Dunedin. If National wants to campaign on destroying the conservation estate, I say "Bring it on!", because our Government is committed to protecting New Zealand's unique landscapes and biodiversity.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What did the Minister mean when he told Parliament on 5 December last year: "I can say that some good news is very close on that project.", when 10 months later the only news we have is a departmental report recommending that the concession application be rejected?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have already explained to the House that this is a complex issue. The member who has just asked the question is all over the place on the issue of the environment. On the one hand he promises a rating system to protect New Zealand's significant river systems —

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister wants to divert off the subject by talking about some other quote I said. The question is about him telling the House last December that there was good news on this project. I asked him what the good news is, when the only development has been the department producing a report that says it should be declined.

Madam SPEAKER: I would ask the Minister to address the question and not to include material that is not relevant to the question.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I was trying to point out that from that particular member we get all sorts of contradictions. I guess it proves the Cullen maxim that one does not need two National MPs for a contradiction; one will do.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please address the question.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: As I have explained to the House already, this project, which at first seemed to be a rather simple one, is actually a very complex one because of the nature of the land tenure in that area. We are trying to resolve those issues.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How does the Minister justify his department taking 2 years and 3 months for a concession application involving just 0.7 hectares— or 1 percent—of one of the 8,400 reserves that are managed by his department, noting he has said publicly that addressing climate change is an urgent priority of his department?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Very easily. That member, as a former Minister of Conservation, knows that the Minister must operate within the law. I cannot arbitrarily say conservation land that has reserve status can be destroyed —it is not possible.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is it not the truth of this issue that his bloated bureaucracy is out of control, that even small concessions take years and years to conclude, and that on top of that years and years are required for resource consent; and is that not why New Zealand's proportion of renewable energy has declined in every year of this Labour Government and why this Government does not have a bolter's hope of meeting the target of 90 percent renewables by 2025?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The ludicrous and exaggerated comments of the member destroy any credibility he has. I remind the member again that as a former Minister of Conservation he knows that the Minister must operate within the law.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the statement by the Minister in December last year that the decision was "very imminent".

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the Department of Conservation's report recommending that this concession not be granted.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I seek the leave of the House to table a document on the value of conservation to the New Zealandeconomy.

Leave granted.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I seek leave to table a statement from Fish and Game New Zealand praising the Government's Energy Strategy.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I seek the leave of the House to table a document outlining the major climate change initiatives that are being developed on conservation land.

Leave granted.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the Department of Conservation's statement of intent, which states —
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

the.obfuscator's picture


"Raftabout owner Stephen McNab, who has also kayaked that section of the river, said his company had stopped rafting near Awesome Gorge about 18 months ago after a close call with logs and concerns about safety."

'Safety Concerns' is the new code word for 'paid off by the power company'

seth's picture

It's a great argument when you think about the whole system but the generators are a small, biased part that sells watts. Efficiency just decreases demand for their product.

There need to be incentives for property owners to upgrade their houses like you have done Donald. The generation companies are always going to be wankers, they don't have a vested interest in anything other than generation. Perhaps a strategy for public relations AND profit for a power company would be to invest in companies that offer power efficiency products and services; pushing the consumer benefits of that rather than building another dam.

It is also a shame that this is going through when a river like the lower Waitaki, where the lakes are basically the only water attraction and offer considerable benefit to the economy of the region, are left un-harnessed. *ducks*

Seems a bit of a bitter pill to swallow being told the RMA works too well based off how this has gone.

mike21's picture

Sounds like commom sense to me. Have you gone public with those calculations, say in the daily post, Herald TV. That information needs more coverage than this web site. Great stuff.

Guido's picture

Just to give an impression of what we stand to lose I put some video footage of this descent on youtube. See link below -


Cheers to Kenny and the guys for making this possible,

If the link doesn't work you can enter a search for Kaituna

tim.trew's picture

A group of us ran the gnarly gorge a few years back. It was one of the highlights of my trip and i'm shocked to hear about the proposals.

Although not technically the most difficult run, it was one of the most committing and generally psychologically terrifying rivers I ran. Think grade 5 drops, the possibility of fallen trees around ever corner, no eddys, and all in a river about 2m wide deep in inaccesable gorges. Swimming wasn't an option and we had to capsise under at least one tree. I think we made one pretty technical portages. I'm sure its changed since then.

Its stunning down there, go do it while you still can!

Tim (from UK)

andy.fuller's picture

DOC have given agreement to the dam being built. Not sure when the Meeting is.

sunspots.kayak.shop's picture

Aparently there is a ad on the radio today saying that the dam has been approved on the Kaituna and BOPE is holding a public meeting? I have not heard the add myself yet? does anyone know the details of the meeting?????

paul8's picture

And one more thing....
We're going to get foam insulation put into our 130sqm home at a cost of $4,500. It's not cheap but it's going to have a big effect on our heating bill.
If the government was to give grants to help people insulate homes and put solar panels in then they wouldn't need to build more power stations. It would probably be cheaper too and that's not taking into account the costs to business and the health services that would be reduced by people living in warmer, dryer homes.

pete's picture

It seems just common sense and so simple when you put it like that Donald. Why are the powers that be not looking outside the square for other options!!

Why don't we send your figures to Mr Carter! Do you think he might even bother to read it?

The Mokau River fight is going to the appeal court and getting very complicated.


kieron1's picture

Good points there Donald, if only we could all be so idealistic!

Of course you and I both know that most people would rather spend $100+ a month than front up a capital investment of $2500 for savings of $50 a month (minus a bit of maintenance) for the rest of their lives. Your fantastic return on investment of 3-4 years just isn't attractive enough to most homeowners, let alone rental properties - why should the landlord pay out so the tenants can save money?

Dare I say it, but... NZ is a particularly bad at this kind of short term thinking, although it is endemic everywhere.

Want proof? Look at the standard of NZ housing - little insulation, no hot water power timers, no central heating (come to Christhchurch and check out the winter SMOG). In terms of suitability to the climate, NZ housing is some of the worst the world.

It's not just our homes - look at state infrastructure. We have essentially no gas reticulation, even though NZ has - had - HUGE gas reserves. We simply burn it, inefficiently, to make electricity instead. Speaking of which - our electricity network! Hah!

The power companies, like any other business, are about spending money to make money, and they generally like to see their returns coming in quickly. They do this at the expense of so-called minority groups such as us, and they use the media to portray us as anti-progress radicals - Divide and Conquer!

Good on you for getting us all thinking DC. Gonna have to come for another visit and run Awesome Gorge before it's gone forever...

sunspots.kayak.shop's picture

Last year when we had the consultation meetings with BOPE they told us we needed the power from the Kaituna power stn. As my house is only 100m from the river I decided to do something about it.
Here is what I did - so far I have converted my hot water heating 100% over to Solar and my power usage has dropped by over 50%
So today when I read the news that Doc may approve the dam I got to thinking about how much power we really need and how many people it would take to not have to build the Kaituna power stn, here are some rough figures that a freind has worked out
The proposed Kaituna scheme is - 13.5 MW = 13,500 kW
kW (power) = kW x time = kWh = Energy
100% load availability for a power station over 24 hours = 324,000 kWh per day
More likely is 75% availability (down time for repairs, not enough water to reach max load etc) = 13,500 x 0.75 (-25%) = 10,125 kW
over 24 hours = 243,000 kWh per day

I've had a look around on the web and the average hot water usage per day is working on say 5.5 kWh per person per day to heat hot water with electricity;

Looks about right. Divide that by 2 to take into account the solar system and you end up with an energy demand of 2.25kWh per day for hot water.

13,500 kWh/2.25kWh = 6000 solar water heaters. However, using a average household of 4 = 6000/4 = 1500 solar water heaters which is getting more reasonable.
Working on a 75% availability factor = 10,125 kWh/2.25kWh = 4500 solar water heaters. Using a average household of 4 = 4500/4 = 1125 solar water heaters

Conclusion: a thousand or so solar water heaters will save as much electricity as this power station will produce.

Kaituna project cost: work on around $1-2 million per MW for hydro = $13.5-27 million (maybe even as high as $30 million)

I installed a Solar water heater in our house that is now providing almost 100% of our hot water, the cost of the solar water heaters was $2500....
I think for $30 million you'll be able to get a few houses more than the 13.5 MW that the Kaituna will provide!
And it is truely sustainable with no effect on the environment!

kaituna's picture

Decision close on Bay dam

Wednesday December 6, 2006

Conservation Minister Chris Carter says a decision on a Bay of Plenty hydro project is coming soon and has hinted it will receive his approval.

The Conservation Department has been considering the Upper Kaituna hydro project for more than a year.

Bay of Plenty Electricity's proposal would supply 13.5MW of electricity, enough to power about 10,000 homes.

It requires approval under the Resource Management Act but also needs a concession under the Conservation Act because between 0.5 and 1ha of a 54ha reserve would end up under water.

Mr Carter told Parliament that a decision was now close.

"A decision on the Kaituna project is very imminent," Mr Carter said.

"I can say that some good news is very close on that project."

National's environment spokesman Nick Smith said the Conservation Department had a record of blocking renewable energy projects.

Mr Carter said that was not correct, and any encroachment on DOC land was treated on its merits.

"One of the things I think all New Zealanders are proud of is our beautiful natural environment. Protecting that environment is a very important task of the department," Mr Carter said.

The two men disagreed about how long it had taken DOC to consider the proposal and who was responsible for the delay.


duncan0's picture

I have just spoken to Mark Davies from Rotorua DoC about the proposed dam on the Kaituna River which will dramatically affect Awesome and Gnarly Gorges. In short, it is still a waiting game to see if BoP Electricity (BoPE) get their concession from DoC to flood part of the Kaituna reserve.

The situation is that DoC sent their draft report and recommendations to Bay of Plenty Electricity (BoPE) before Christmas. BoPE were supposed to have commented on their recommendations by the end of January, but in the end BoPE only submitted their comments at the end of March. DoC are reviewing BoPE's comments and a final decision is expected by the beginning of May (hopefully this date should be fairly fixed as the process is now purely internal to DoC).

duncan0's picture

This is the current situation on the Bay of Plenty Electricity dam which would affect Awesome and Gnarly Gorge.

- As advised in the Kaituna Project low-down article in the last NZ Canoeing magazine (and available on the website) there are two processes for the dam to go ahead - BoPE has to first get a concession from DoC and if this is approved then they will apply for a resource consent.
- The DoC Bay of Plenty office has already drafted a report including their recommendation on whether to approve Bay of Plenty Electricity's application for a DoC concession to flood part of the Kaituna Scenic Reserve.
- DoC is expected to make their recommendation public later in February, so it's a wait and see game for the moment.

Note that there are whispers of other dams on the Kaituna that don't affect DoC land. So the bottom line is that even if DoC do the "right thing" and refuse to give BoPE a concession, the Kaituna fight is NOT over.

As regards the TV3 video footage of Kenny Mutton's et al's trip down the gorges (thanks for doing this). We are trying to get a copy of the video footage for publication on the website so that the public and mere mortals such as myself can understand more fully what a great resource the Kaituna is. We'll keep you posted on what we can do.

marcus.d's picture

Hi - I missed the news item on TV3 a couple of days ago about the proposed dam. Can someone in the know email me or post a quick update of where things stand at the moment.

Thanks, Marcus

kaituna's picture

A new site dedicated to the Katiuna, still adding to it but it is a start, you can add comments and information.

stumpy's picture

I'm not a local to BOP, but am planning to do the Kaituna soon. What can I do to register support to keep the river free from dams, as i can't attend local meetings.

jonathan's picture

The meeting tomorrow (Wednesday 9) is at 5:30 at Sunpots, 391 State Highway 33, Rotorua


gareth4's picture


Who cares... Well I care! This has to be one of the most amazing white water runs in the world and if damned will be lost forever and will become a mythical legend of what was and what could have been. Iíve done the complete 6 hour run from the lake to flat water at the bottom a few times now and itís difficult to describe in a few words. Heart thumping it is but much much more. I did most of the first descents of the many lower sections of the river and have dug out some old pictures and hope to write up a story of some wild Kaituna adventures for you to read. Right now there is a meeting scheduled for this Wednesday between kayakers and the power company that needs your support.

Help save the Kaituna
There will be a meeting next Wednesday 9th November at 5.30pm (venue
> to be confirmed), where BOP electricity are wanting to meet with
> Kayakers regarding their proposal to dam the Kaituna river. There are
> at the point
> where they are ready to (or maybe have already) applied for resource
> consent.
> It is important that we get as many people along to have any chance of
> stopping the dam, and if we cant stop it, to make sure kayakers get
> something out of it. After the last meetings poor showing (admittedly
> notification wasn't as good as it could have been), where there were
> almost more representatives from BOP Electricity, we need to have a
> good showing so
> they can see some opposition.
> I don't have everyone's email address so if you could pass this on to
> any kayakers, not just those that you think may be able to come along
> - the more
> people who know about this the better.
> I will send out details of the venue as soon as I know, but am pretty
> sure it will be out at Okere Falls somewhere.

james4's picture

Thats cool. So how hard is it? "Hardest run in New Zealand" sounds pretty intimidating. Are we talking stacked solid 5+ death drops best left to river gods or is this section a realistic goal for a grade 5 paddler.
It would be a great one to tick off if it really does get dammed.
Has anyone got any info? How long is the section? how many drops?

mr.greg.bell's picture

I would like to be informed of any public consultations/hearings in regard to the proposed dam on the Kaituna river. You can use this e-mail address as a contact.

Kind regards,

Greg Bell.

enjoying.it's picture

you know this andi but for everyone else - after some epic scouting missions by dylan and mike the gnarly gorge has been run twice in the last two days.