The threat of a legal closure to the Kaituna River lower gorges has raised its head again. The Bay of Plenty Regional Harbour Master has announced his intention to close Awesome, Gnarly and Smokey gorges, effective 1 May 2019.
We see this as the local harbourmaster breaking new ground and an overreach of the legislative powers in the Maritime Transport Act. We are concerned about the precedent this decision sets for future management of New Zealand’s whitewater resources.
WWNZ had a last minute opportunity to present the Bay of Plenty Regional Council with our views on the situation and you can read these in our letter to BOPRC on 20 March (PDF). The council was receptive to our point of view and have given us a window of opportunity to negotiate an alternative solution to the recommended closure.
The process from this point involves facilitated mediation between multiple stakeholders with interests in the lower Kaituna Gorges. Our voice will be strongly represented and we will be doing everything we can to reach a tangible solution.
While these discussions are happening, we are asking paddlers to cease using the private land on river right to portage Gnarly gorge. In practical terms, that means ceasing paddling Awesome, Gnarly, and Smokey until the legal access can be resolved. We respect the position of our negotiating partners and we are hopeful that a show of good faith on the part of our community will assist in finding a resolution.