Amendment of Kawarau River Water Conservation Order


Form 30
Submission on publicly notified application for water conservation order or for revocation or amendment of water conservation order

Sections 205 and 216, Resource Management Act 1991

To: Special Tribunal - Kawarau River Water Conservation Order
c/- Alex Miller, Ministry for the Environment
PO Box 10362

Name of submitter: New Zealand Recreational Canoeing Association

About the submitter:

  1. The New Zealand Recreational Canoeing Association (NZRCA) was formed in 1957 and is the national representative organisation of canoe clubs and recreational kayakers throughout New Zealand. The NZRCA is a voluntary, non-profit, incorporated society and is affiliated to the NZ Canoe Federation. The NZCF is in turn affiliated to the International Canoe Federation. The NZRCA has delegated authority to represent the NZCF and all its member disciplines on advocacy issues.
  2. The NZRCA was known as the New Zealand Canoe Association until 1995/6. At this time the competitive canoeing disciplines were separated into their own associations, and the NZ Canoe Federation was formed to act as a new umbrella organisation. The NZCA was renamed the NZ Recreational Canoeing Association to reflect its non-competitive advocacy role.
  3. The NZRCA represents both club and individual full members and further affiliated member clubs. Currently there are 30 full or affiliated member clubs with a combined membership of around 2,500 kayakers plus another 65 individual members. The figure of 2,565 does not represent the sum total of kayakers in New Zealand, as there are many who do not belong to clubs, and who have not joined the NZRCA as individuals.


This is a submission on an application from New Zealand and Otago Fish & Game Councils for amendmentof the Kawarau water conservation order for the Kawarau River in respect of its tributary the Nevis River.

The applicant seeks the following amendments to the Order in respect of the Nevis River:

  • Adding a prohibition on damming and diversion of the Nevis River
  • Adding a condition on water takes so as not to breach a minimum flow at 2 sections ofthe river (Wentworth and Nevis Crossing)
  • Deletion of clause 7 of the Order

Amendments are also sought to recognise outstanding characteristics of the river:

  • Wild and scenic characteristics
  • Back country trout fishery
  • Natural characteristics, in particular outstanding natural landform
  • Trout spawning habitat
  • Adult trout habitat (trophy trout)
  • Native fishery habitat
  • Scientific - biogeographic river capture
  • Historic and cultural characteristics

The specific parts of the application that this submission relates to are:

  • NZRCA supports the whole amendment application.
  • NZRCA also wishes the Tribunal to recognise the outstanding recreational characteristics of the Nevis River.


The NZ Recreational Canoeing Association supports the application for the following reasons:

  1. The Nevis River is an iconic whitewater kayaking river in New Zealand. It is a steep creek situated on its own in the middle of Central Otago. New Zealand Whitewater (Charles, G) describes the Nevis River as one of a kind for kayaking. Nowhere else in New Zealand does a river drop so fast for so long.
  2. The Nevis River has one of the steepest gradient of any currently kayaked river in New Zealand making it irreplaceable. The gradient averages about 25m drop per km for 16.5km, and at its steepest is 59m per km, which is exceeded by few other New Zealand rivers.
  3. The Nevis River is probably the most difficult river section (as opposed to individual rapidsuch as Nevis Bluff on the Kawarau or Aratiatia on the Waikato) accessible via road in New Zealand. It is unique in its combination of length, difficulty, remoteness and accessibility.
  4. The Nevis River is infamous for the demanding, committing and uncompromising nature of the challenge that it poses. Some descents are controlled enough to continue a few kilometres down the Kawarau for a big-water finale through the massive Citro├źn rapid; others result in enforced bivouacs or retreats in the dark. On one early descent the protagonists left their kayaks by the river and walked out in the dark. The next weekend they returned to finish their trip and were benighted again! To the uninitiated this may sound foolhardy or even masochistic, but this is one of the pinnacles of hard adventure kayaking in New Zealand. Adventure is defined as a risky undertaking of unknown outcome, which is exactly what the Nevis provides. It is an inspiration and a challenge for top kayakers throughout the country.
  5. The Nevis River is kayakable at a wide range of flows. The lowest descents have been made at approximately 10 cumecs, and the highest at about 50 cumecs. This gives a completely different range of hydraulic features and risk management problems. Kayakers value the different experiences provided by these high and low flows, and the challenges provided by theneed to assess changing flows before or during a descent.
  6. The Nevis River runs through the distinctive Otago highland landscape of schist strata and craggy tussock slopes. Almost all other South Island hard creek runs are in Westland or Fiordland rainforest valleys and offer a completely different feel and experience due to the differences in landscapes. The Nevis River offers kayakers the opportunity of a 'package experience'. The drive from Bannockburn to the put-in point is also a scenic and valued part ofthe river trip, building anticipation as the valley comes into view. Many parties camp at the put-into allow an early start. The demands of the river trip are such that many parties want to begin at first light to ensure they have enough daylight to complete the trip. The camping at the put-in is also in a remote and scenic location, enhancing the overall experience.
  7. The Kawarau Water Conservation Order states:
    • Provisions for Nevis River The regional council may grant a resource consent or make a rule ina plan for hydro-electric development in respect of the Nevis River if that resource consent or rule complies with the restrictions and prohibitions set out in Schedule 2.
  8. And in Schedule 2 e (i)
    • no damming allowed unless a rule in a plan or condition in any water permit granted makes provision for river flows to be provided at sufficient levels to enable kayaking to be undertaken inthe gorge at times stated in the plan or permit, and the extent of any impounded water is not beyond S143:836485;
  9. The NZRCA maintains that the Nevis River in its natural state affords an outstanding recreational value that should be protected from damming or diversion. Its natural qualities off low level variability and lack of modification are intrinsic to its recreational value.

The NZRCA seeks the following decision from the special tribunal:

To recognise those outstanding values of the Nevis River identified by Fish and Game in their application, together with the outstanding recreational values identified in this submission. To add a prohibition on damming and diversion of the river to protect the natural flow regime.

The NZRCA wish to be heard in support of this submission.

Tony Ward-Holmes (NZRCA Conservation Officer, South Island)
2 October 2008

Address for service of submitter:NZ Recreational Canoeing Association, PO Box 284, Wellington.
Telephone: (03) 371-6932
Contact person: Tony Ward-Homes, Conservation Officer (SI)