The Kawarau WCO in 1997 didn't recognise or protect the outstanding recreational amenity on the Nevis River.
In 2008, a Special Tribunal to consider amendments to the Water Conservation Order also failed to sufficiently recognise or protect kayaking values (NZRCA Submission). Whitewater NZ, NZ and Otago Fish and Game Councils and Pioneer Generation Ltd. appealed the Tribunals decision to the Environment Court.
In June 2013, the Environment Court decided (PDF, 7.8MB) that the kayaking amenity in the lower gorge of the Nevis River is outstanding and should be protected through a prohibition on damming. Based on evidence presented by prominent local kayakers the court recognised that the progression of kayaking equipment and skills has increased the recreational amenity of the Nevis, specifically the lower gorge, and that the impact of a hydro dam on the amenity would be detrimental (especially due to compression (if access was restricted to release days), loss of a warm-up section and loss of natural character). Furthermore, a prohibition on damming via a Water Conservation Order offers greater certainty of protection than district and regional plans.
- Whitewater NZ delighted with Minister's WCO decision, 1 November 2013
- Minister acts to prevent damming on Nevis River, 1 November 2013
- Court divided over Nevis damming, Lynda van Kempen, ODT, 12 June 2013,
- Video by Pete Simpson that was presented at the Environment Court, 2009, http://www.youtube.com/embed/ov0PdR-yYAY