Kayakers sell the Arnold River


Greymouth Kakayers are in the final stages of selling off the last vestiges of Arnold River on the West Coast in return for a $2million Kayak course. At least that is what Trustpower have promised in return for the withdrawal of their objections to their latest power scheme.(Diversion) The Arnold River already has a power scheme (Dam). This new scheme is for that last remaining 30km unmodified fast flowing white water that will be turned into a lifeless creek by this new scheme. I had thought that Kaykers were people who cared for their environment and got enjoyment just being out there. I did not think they would "sell out" for a concrete "thingy" I think this will get get immediate international exposure.

duncan's picture


Time to get behind Johnny Groom all you Greymouth folk, Inangahua etc.

I have to agree with you here. When Whitewater NZ was considering what to do about the Arnold, the only voice that could be heard out in the community was that of the pro-development lobby.

While there was a voice from the pro-Arnold lobby, it was very small compared to the pro-development one.

This is one of the reasons we decided to do what we did.

While this is an interesting debate, it doesn't achieve a damn thing in terms of saving the Arnold. If you want to save the Arnold, here's what to do:

  1. Start voicing your concerns in a more public forum.
  2. Directly petition the decision makers in the process of deciding whether or not a dam should go ahead.
  3. Stop squabbling amongst yourselves, and join together with a united voice that can be heard above the very loud, and vociferous pro-development one.

I lived beside the Arnold for five years, and have paddled it hundreds of times. I was in the forefront of the battle to save it the first time around, and was overjoyed when we won the first time. I was dismayed when this proposal came back in a different form that avoided Card Creek.

I agree with all of you, the Arnold is worth saving. But in the environment we were working in, where we were on a hiding to nothing, Whitewater NZ was far better off putting its meagre resources into battles that we can win. See Tony's post further up the thread.



steve.maitland's picture

Not wishing to slight Helicopters and their crews, but with the advent of the Helicopter the back country ceased to exist for most folk!
Time to get behind Johnny Groom all you Greymouth folk, Inangahua etc.
When did you ever see a promice by these folk ever followed through for any length of time?


riverplay's picture

You've obviuosly not spent too much time in the back country of the West Coast then, and no I don't regard the Hollyford with tarseal road running beside it as back country unless you're a tourist.

carey.dillon's picture

Bart Simpson sold his soul for a $1 and boy did he ever have trouble getting it back! Lake Brunner water quality is in serious trouble (confirmed WCRC last newsletter) so the Arnold is too. It may not be long before it is not too nice to paddle on - want your soul back yet?

Pristine River? is there still such a thing? All rivers in the Westland District that I know of have either gorse, goats, ragwort, possums, 1080, Didymo and of course last but definitely not least the ubiquitous willow tree. 100% pure New Zealand is an actionable lie. Even in Fiordland I found gorse and willows in the Hollyford and other rivers.

Nearly 100 cruise ships many of super tanker size will invade our precious Fiordland this summer to places that most New Zealanders will never see. Poker machines will whir below the mighty Stirling Falls players barely pausing for a gawk out through chrome and glass - The risk to our exceptional marine environment is barely a consideration for the benefactor of this invasion - Environment Southland!

Every river counts. All rivers in this country are now in serious trouble. You can go about with blinkers on if you wish. The once mighty scenic Taramakau is used by locals as a rubbish dump. It is aerially bombed with 1080 and is choked with invasive species of plants. Instead of snowfed blue it runs cowshit brown for miles. The Grey River system is a polluted nightmare of floating chemical containers, cowshit and every other imaginable nasty. It is also a prime whitebait fishery-yep Guess where the most fished spot is? Yep right along the sewerage outfall (raw sewarge that is)

I wish for respect for the Arnold. I wish respect for what it once was. It could be put back that way. Imagine what a kayak trip that would have been after some heavy rain? But souls come cheap when it comes to toys

I still believe that the Kayakers here have sold their souls for a plaything. Winning is about trying. Losing is about trying too! It may still never get built anyway. It certainly will not be any time soon - believe it!

There is still time for redemption!

Best Regards

Carey Dillon

damo's picture

So are most kayaks, kayakers and their bright shiny kayaking toys.

Dean wrote:
> Lets all remember that brown trout are an introduced species
> put here for our recreation...

riverplay's picture

Lets all remember that brown trout are an introduced species put here for our recreation...

riverplay's picture


mark.hubbard's picture

As opposed to rolling in a man made course, careful you dont hit your head on the concrete bottom.
I shall enjoy what ive got , until closed minded thinking of natural resourses takes over.

steve.maitland's picture

Well Dean.....
You do have a problem
I used to live at the Taipo
I did the walk/run to school at a very young age
The school was at Jacksons (south where the pub is)
Can't remember whether it was frosty!
Would you like proof?
Any more punches you would like to throw?


steve.maitland's picture

Interesting Dean
Look up Steve Maitland in Coast to Coast. I'm probably older than you done more miles than you probably too, and I like the idea of saving nature not only to kayak in but because mankind not only needs it to survive but it also has live forms which also have a right to live.
Man made courses?
I have had pupils in kayak rolling who refused to learn to roll in a lake. Wanted a swimming pool?
You guys can roll out the words all you like you don't know me and I don't know you except I battle every day for our heritage!
Thank you.


riverplay's picture

I bet you walked to school 10km with bare feet in the middle of winter too. Who the hell wants to learn to roll in a lake!

Enjoy what you've got mate...

steve.maitland's picture

I salute anybody who gives their time, soul and energy to saving what nature New Zealand has left and I would like to make the point that reliving justifications is wasted energy.
Also when folk justify saving one thing and not the other all they end up is trying to save the last spring at some remote headwaters on the last natural point of the globe!
As per smelly meat works try having a look at the Waimakariri/Cam river in Kaiapoi.
This is what the sort of logic and meandering will achieve!
I'm blunt and you will know what I think.
This is not meant to be an assassination!


riverplay's picture


I suggest you get of your soap box/computer and get out there and enjoy the thousands of square km's of back country that NZ has to offer...if you can't find something out there to be positive about, then go be a lawyer.

I've been to a couple of man made white water courses, what impressed me the most was the almost completey safe enviorment for youth/beginners to learn skills/respect in white water the same youth that will grow up to replace the likes of Glenn when he becomes weary of battling the bearurecrats/lawyers.

I take it with your morals, your computers work of a dynamo or solar power....

duncan's picture


Thanks for the thumbs up for the work we are doing.

You make a good point about Mokihinui vs Arnold. Although we would like to save every river, you're right, we simply don't have the resources.



mark.hubbard's picture

"Whats to save", "far more worthy waterways", It appears you dont give a stuff about the arnold.

damo's picture

I love these battles, It's good to see people standing up for what they stand for. Personally I think you can keep your biff boats. Man made features do seem cool if you have a control complex. Controlling something that has been controlling itself for millions of years. I have been involved in making man made courses and you can easily make a sweet feature, that is short lived and requires constant maintenance. These features are amazing for posing in. Getting your huge camera out to take pics of your huge loops, in your new shiny biff boat. But you have to remember that Rodeo is dead, and You will grow out of it, I promise.

The Arnold is a very special place to be. The river has something for everybody, and you can make it very hard with a bit of imagination and skill. It also holds good stocks of great size brown trout, which are a fun break from boating and enjoying the place. So I wouldn't say there is nothing to save.


ali's picture

Whats to save? The river I learnt to paddle on, the first plase I stood a boat up vert(Hurricane), and the best rocksplat rock I have played in the 10 years I have been boating.
A lot of folks have had a load of fun on that little stream, and a lot of folks have become quite addicted to paddling on that stream, it's loss is very sad.
But what's sadder is that a "river person" and raft guide would rather have a concrete ditch than a river bed to play in.

riverplay's picture

The Arnold is already heavily modified with a hydro scheme, bordered by farm land its entire length, and has the smelliset freezing works situated beside it, whats to save?

Thanks NZRCA for all your efforts to protect prstine rivers, all river runners know that there are far more worthy waterways than the Arnold for you to direct your meager resources towards.

keep up the good work.

P.S. Can't wait to see the course that will be contstucted beside the Arnold! I suggest all those opposing this development take a float down it then float the Mokihinui then weigh up whats worth fighting for

steve.maitland's picture

Hi Glenn,
Part of the quite varied Team that held the Hokitika Gorge.


duncan's picture

[i]To do the impossible you have to attempt it first![/i]

Agree. We would welcome your help on these battles. We are a small, under-resourced group of passionate people who spend hundreds of hours of our personal time battling for [b]your[/b] rivers.

We welcome any help we can get. Feel free to contact us and we can let you know how you can be of assistance.



steve.maitland's picture

Well said Marlene.


steve.maitland's picture

"We were confident that we were going to lose?"
To do the impossible you have to attempt it first!
Guy's Guy's

Every nibble and the cheese gets less,
One thing you can not replace in a hurry as the population expands, is the great outdoors!


duncan's picture


As has been previously stated in this thread, kayakers would far prefer to have an unmodified, natural river (although the Arnold is already modified).

However, in this case, we were confident that we were going to lose. If we continued to object we would lose, and get nothing. Instead we chose to lose, and get some mitigation, albeit less ideal than the natural river.

The main point here is that we were going to lose anyway. Whitewater NZ has a long and proud history of winning battles for rivers. This decision was NOT taken lightly.

Whitewater NZ Conservation Officer

steve.maitland's picture

I think by focusing only on the Westcoast we are not seeing the whole picture. Cast a wider net and take a look at the whole of New Zealands pollution, it is for real.
Then I think you should see, why there must be every possible effort to retain our natural treasures. As a kayaker every white water kayaker should paddle the lower reaches of every river they paddle, then and only then can they have a clearer perspective on what is happening!


Andy England's picture

I share your concern about Dean's comments to Carey Dillon - there's no need for personal, irrelevant sideswipes in this forum.
The Matakitaki and Arnold are quite different cases though and warrant different approaches from all concerned. I know Jonny and Carey have expressed their displeasure at my approach to the Arnold but I stand by what I have done, given the situation we were and are in and particularly given the system we all have to work to.
The Matakitaki issue is still wide open and the loss, for kayaking at least, would be completely impossible to mitigate. Therefore its loss would also have disastrous economic consequences for the area which I suspect will carry more weight than any threat to a wild and scenic river on its own.

marlene.winchester's picture

In answer to Dean’s blunt criticism of Carey Dillon, it takes caring people to stand up and be counted, especially on the West Coast. There is more than one side to the media stories one reads. I was very pleased to hear (when in Murchison in recent months while attending river meetings) the comments of some professional kayaker’s who said that they couldn’t understand the mitigation agreed/sell-out re the Arnold River. The concerned locals, anglers, and kayakers at the Tasman Network pre-feasibility investigation meeting in Murchison recently all expressed the need for rivers to remain wild and untouched, so one would hope that with so many angling guiding and water sporting businesses relying on rivers such as the Matukituki remaining natural, the mitigation of an artificial kayaking course on this river will never be agreed to. Fortunately Murchison has a strong economic base relying on the completely natural rivers in the area and this will be the saving grace for natural waterways, not concrete courses in this area. Anglers, kayakers and rafters come here to NZ for a natural outdoor experience with surrounding outstanding scenery, not dammed rivers. The recently released book "Arnold Gold" by Johnny Groome says it like it is and should be read by all who care for the environment and our waterways.

jonathan's picture

Johnny Groome wrote:
> My mum taught me to never take “candy” from a stranger.

You didn't learn the lesson then; the danger is from the stranger, not the candy!

> Because of this kayak course deal (its all lollies) kayakers
> are now in bed with TrustPower. As such they are supporting
> the obtuse idea that our natural amenity can be mitigated
> (replaced) with artificial playpens.

This is the entire rationale of the RMA. If you don't like it, lobby government to change the RMA. Why blame others for working within the system as it currently exists?

> Its one thing to
> withdraw a submission or admitt defeat;

So you're saying kayakers should just admit defeat and walk away with nothing? Instead we admitted defeat (withdrew our objections) and walked away with the promise of a whitewater feature that will still enable kayaking and student instruction.

> its another thing
> altogether to accept mitigation that allows (helps) a river
> to be de-watered. These proposals work on the concept that
> whats taken can be replaced or mitigated.

Not true. Some consent applications will proceed even if they cannot be adequately mitigated. This is especially the case when the proposer can point to government policies promoting renewable energy. Although kayakers would argue that rivers are not renewable, their objections alone would not be enough to stop a scheme such as the Arnold.

> Without suitable
> mitigation, these things cannot go ahead. The long and the
> short of it is the fact that this kayak course deal has
> helped TrustPower to proceed by ways of mitigating the loss
> of natural amenity. A small price for them to pay for a river!

Kayakers would prefer the Arnold remained in it's natural state, just like any other river. Kayakers objected to the Arnold scheme, but recognise that the scheme was likely to proceed irrespective of their objections. In that context, they accepted mitigation offered by TrustPower.


riverplay's picture

I never said I support the Arnold hydro proposal, just oppose Dillon's absolute opposition to anything remotely developing the W/C as a tourism destination.

mark.hubbard's picture

Reading through the comments posted, it would appear that the "kayakers" do only see the arnold or any river as just a body of water to float on.
I find it disturbing to think that an artificial man made course would be more appealing than something nature has provided to us for free.
I have read "Arnold Gold' and agree that all kayakers should get a copy, you will then realise how uncouth and devastating the hydro scheme will be to the arnold and how supporting this by accepting a man made kayak course in its place is just ludicrous.

johnny.groome's picture

So Dean, you think the de-watering of the Arnold for your own self serving kayak course will see great benefits for the Grey region over and above the obvious degradation associated with a volatile hydro development. Its obvious you believe the wealth of natural white-water amenities currently available throughout the region have no social benefits. This must be the case if the artificial Arnold amenity is to make such a huge impact as you have stated. If this is the case and what you say is indeed your belief, then I guess we will be seeing from your quarter a wealth of artificial kayak course proposals on all the other hydro opportunities throughout the country. A sad case.
Perhaps, Dean, next time you are on the river (any river) instead of merely “skimming the surface” take a look a little “deeper” and view our rivers as something more than simply water flowing down a slope to be minipulated for the benifit of the few. I (Carey too) look at rivers more than just a giant “tap” of never ending supply. I suggest you start by reading the excellent new book “Arnold Gold...memories from the Arnold and beyond” available at Take Note Greymouth and Hokitika. You can order one on line...Google "Arnold Gold".There is a significant chapter in the book based on the the Kayakers position on the Arnold river hydro proposal/deal. I strongly suggest you read this as should all kayakers in NZ.

riverplay's picture

Carey Dillon, you're a meddler, even partially responsible for the closure of the only pub in kumara, you're completly opposed to any development on the west coast, including painting your rusty roof. bugger off and stick to woodwork. Have you ever visited a man made white water course? the economic and social benefits for the Greymouth/west coast area would be vast, a whole lot more than your rundown dump of a shop.

carey.dillon's picture

Please read this from the Greystar on which my comment was based.


I will post my response to your replies separately

carey.dillon's picture

Thanks for Johnathon

Please read the article in the Greystar I posted here. My opinion (I am entitled to one even if its different to yours!) is that you are dealing with the thin edge of the wedge here. Once you agree to this concrete thingy all your future opposition is out the window. Trustpower have several other plans in their filing cabinet including partly diverting the Taramakau River into the Lake Brunner system(referred to in mitigation) That will be next, and there are others. As you say the future is bleak for all our rivers here and elsewhere, and not only because of the threat from many more hydro schemes. That is why I have registered a new website to expose this and other schemes etc, and that will be up in a couple of weeks (yes, at my own expense).
As for labeling people. Bart Simpson was able to buy his soul back. Yours is down the river when you sign!
Developers will develop everything and the loser is always the environment. That was why I was involved in stopping the first scheme. The Arnold is an excellent learners river and that is scarce enough now.
Please don't sell out!

johnny.groome's picture

My mum taught me to never take “candy” from a stranger. Because of this kayak course deal (its all lollies) kayakers are now in bed with TrustPower. As such they are supporting the obtuse idea that our natural amenity can be mitigated (replaced) with artificial playpens. Its one thing to withdraw a submission or admitt defeat; its another thing altogether to accept mitigation that allows (helps) a river to be de-watered. These proposals work on the concept that whats taken can be replaced or mitigated. Without suitable mitigation, these things cannot go ahead. The long and the short of it is the fact that this kayak course deal has helped TrustPower to proceed by ways of mitigating the loss of natural amenity. A small price for them to pay for a river!

carey.dillon's picture

As I understand it, the signing of the deal is dependent on the kayakers withdrawing their objections. (hmmm, what do you call that?) The sticking point at the moment is that the kayakers are requesting the river be "turned on" for one day a year. Trustpower is balking at that!

Thanks for your response.

duncan's picture

"How do we stop this???"

By lodging a submission on the Resource Consent application, and appearing at the hearing to present your evidence. Unfortunately your submission needed to be in by 19th January 2007, so you're too late this time!

So it's a good thing we've got our ears to the ground for you! Here's what we did on your behalf:


There's a whole load of them right here, if you need examples for next time:


Keep informed, get involved, and get yourself heard!


carey.dillon's picture

Another thing you should be aware of is this - I think we are all being sucker punched over the power. In Kumara where I am located we do have a power scheme run by Trustpower. My understanding is the power generated by that scheme (about 60mw) is fed into the national grid - it is not directly used here. The new Arnold scheme will be the same. The real problem here at present is the transmission lines. The existing national grid transmission lines in and out of the Coast are at their capacity. That means that currently any power generated by the new scheme actually has nowhere to go. Just these last few weeks Transpower has announced plans to upgrade those lines (a done deal?) New/all power is for the entire country not just the West Coast. I am not saying that it would not have benefits for the Coast emergencies/overloads etc
The new scheme will generate enough power for about 27,000 homes compare that with the 300,000 homes announced by the wind farm in Otago.
Outfits like Trustpower are very good at spin - you really do need check it out.

ali's picture

wrong wrong wrong!!!!!!
I learnt to boat on that stream! it has the best splat rock on it! Mam made artificial courses are gay and never as good as the real thing!!!
How do we stop this??? if we eat this what will be fed next?????

jonathan5's picture

Why are you painting kayakers as the bad guys and not Trustpower? It's Trustpower that want to build a dam on the Arnold, not kayakers. It's Trustpower who will destroy the recreational amenity of the Arnold.

Given the government's Energy Strategy, and the development focus of many powerful groups on the Coast, it's quite likely that the scheme will proceed, despite any challenges from kayakers. Any legal battle to preserve what remains of the Arnold is likely to be expensive, and there is no guarantee of success. Groups like the NZRCA don't have much funds, so need to prioritise. Plenty of rivers are under threat, including the Mokau, Kaituna, Mokihinui, Nevis, Matiri, etc.

Many kayakers care deeply for the environment. That's why groups like the NZRCA have been successful in achieving positive environmental outcomes on the Buller, Kawarau, Motu, Rangitata, Clarence, Mohaka, Whanganui and more. That's why they support a WCO on the Hurunui. Fighting to preserve recreational amenity is hard, unglamorous work.

I guess we'll be seeing your cold hard cash to bankroll our opposition to Trustpower? Or are you just going to go online and label people?

(Disclaimer: I'm on the NZRCA Exec. I'm not party to discussions with Trustpower. I own my words.)

duncan's picture

Hi Carey,

Firstly, we have come to no agreement, and we have signed nothing.

Every river conservation case is unique. In this case we at the NZRCA, in conjunction with local motivated individuals, are exploring the potential for preliminary agreement based on our informed opinion that the proposed power scheme is almost certain to proceed, whatever our, or any other other minority recreational group's objections may be. The project is a significant factor in the West Coast's future economic development and as such enjoys wide support from all levels of government.

Our present basis for an agreement with TPL is subject to a number of stringent conditions.

Firstly, we want regular, notified and useable releases down the natural river bed. This would be in order to mitigate the reduction in certainty of paddleable flows in the natural river, which will still occur, albeit less often.

Next, we want a 'river park', at the outlet of the proposed power scheme, which will therefore be paddleable whenever the scheme is generating.

Interestingly, there will be very little operating storage in the scheme (due to restrictions in changes of water level in Lake Brunner), therefore it follows that one or the other is likely to be running at any given time because TPL will be unable to hold water back for days on end. We are presently working through the details of the exact loss of amenity, in terms of 'the chances of getting a paddle' at any given time on the river or the park. We expect those chances to be high.

The park would be free to use, and would in every practicable way represent the existing natural river. Its features would be formed practically exclusively from local rock excavated during the scheme's construction, with concrete kept to an absolute minimum necessary (and mostly invisible) in order to anchor said rocks. Such projects have come a long way from stark, Brutalist homages like Holme Pierrepont, UK (and the water's a lot cleaner here!).

The park proposal on offer has developed from a cheap, short, class 1+ channel below the existing dam that would receive little flow or gradient; to a landscaped, free-to-use, 25 cumec plus park representing the current river (and its values to the whitewater community) as closely as possible, with a significant gradient (enough to provide several hundred metres of safe class 2+ and 3 water), an as-close-to-perfect as possible playwave, bridges, walking paths, and of course free parking. The design and construction of the park would be subject to the approval by an internationally recognised expert in the field.

We recognise and accept, of course, that this would be a more 'sanitised' version of the current amenity, and as such may appeal less to wilderness enthusiasts but potentially more to school groups, families, tourists and whitewater athletes. Although previously unwilling to spend more than $2M on the park, the applicant has now recognised that our currency is recreation, not money, and has scrapped the price limit. We envisage that the park will become a seed for future recreational, outdoor education and conservation themed developments in the area including walking tracks, mountain bike tracks, and a high ropes course.

All of the above progress has been the result of a great deal of hard (voluntary!) work from a small minority of people; locals, kayakers, educators, engineers and representatives of the NZRCA. The reason these numbers are small is because these are the only people who stood up and responded to the proposal in a timely, appropriate and informed manner, in their own free time, even though the consent process is entirely open to input from any and every single person in the country, under the Resource Management Act. We at the NZRCA can and do only represent the interests of the whitewater community, something we hope and think we do to the best of our ability.


Kieron Thorpe

Conservation Officer (South Island)