Conservation and recreation groups unite to protect wild rivers
The campaign comes in the wake of plans for a large hydro dam on the West Coast’s pristine Mokihinui River, irrigation water storage dams on Canterbury’s Hurunui River and indications that the Government is considering scrapping water conservation orders nationwide.
The eight organisations, representing more than 100,000 New Zealanders, are united in calling for stronger protection for New Zealand’s remaining wild rivers.
The groups are Fish & Game, Federated Mountain Clubs, Forest & Bird, Whitewater NZ, the Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of NZ, the NZ Rafting Association, the New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers and the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ.
“Wild rivers such as the Hurunui have been enjoyed by generations of New Zealanders for recreation," Whitewater NZ President Polly Miller says. “Our rivers are not only important to New Zealanders, but are also an essential part of our 100% Pure New Zealand image, with millions of tourists enjoying our wild rivers each year.”
NZ Fish & Game Council Chief Executive Bryce Johnson says: “New Zealand’s wild rivers offer some of the best fishing in the world, and their recreational and amenity values are immense. Water conservation orders are essential for the ongoing protection of our iconic rivers and lakes as they place restrictions or prohibitions on water-takes, discharges, hydro-electric development and other uses. They are like a national park on a waterway.”
The groups have fought hard for decades to get protection of wild lakes and rivers such as Lake Manapouri and the mighty Motu River. Water conservation orders have been a crucial tool in protecting such waterways, but the future of the orders, and the fate of dozens of other threatened wild rivers, is in peril.
Federated Mountain Clubs President Rob Mitchell says: “Wild rivers are the lifeblood of our world-renowned conservation lands. They are unique wilderness pathways loved by all New Zealanders who go tramping and camping. It’s imperative we protect these incredible places.”
Forest & Bird Top of the South Field Officer Debs Martin says: “The Mokihinui and other wild rivers are precious because they are the last refuges for endangered wildlife, including native fish and birds such as the blue duck. We could be looking at the end of all our wild rivers across the country. Government thinking is irresponsible and will spark a national backlash.”
Wild rivers are under the strongest pressure for hydro dams and irrigation since the Think Big days of the 1970s. New Zealand has already modified many of its wild rivers for industry, and it is time to say enough, the conservation and recreation groups assert.
There are a finite number of wild rivers left, the groups say. Damming them is irresponsible and short-sighted, especially when there are much more responsible and sustainable options.
Energy planning must become more strategic, focusing on efficiency rather than building more dams. The Electricity Commission has said that NZ could make savings of 6400 gigawatt hours a year – equivalent to 20 Mokihinui dams – at less cost than building new electricity generators.
New Zealand also has plentiful wind and geothermal resources that can be better developed to generate electricity. Innovative emerging technologies also show promise.
Industrial-scale farming is demanding more water from rivers to irrigate land that is naturally too dry for dairy cows. Farming use should be appropriate to the climate and land.
Wild rivers currently targeted for dams include the Motu, Kaituna, Mohaka, Ngaruroro, Mokau in the North Island, and the Mokihinui, Matakitaki, Clarence, Hurunui, Waitaha, and Nevis in the South Island.
With wild rivers under threat from north to south, the groups are issuing an SOS for New Zealand’s finite and precious wild rivers. This summer they will be leading events and campaigning to highlight the value of wild rivers and the need to protect them.
More information is at www.wildrivers.org.nz
Forest & Bird Wild Rivers Co-ordinator Debs Martin, 03 545 8222, 027 684 0599
New Zealand Fish & Game Council Chief Executive Bryce Johnson, 021 397 897
Whitewater NZ President Polly Miller, 021 027 58661
Federated Mountain Clubs President Rob Mitchell, 027 362 0101
Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of NZ Secretary Hugh Barr, 04 934 2244, 027 686 0063
New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers Secretary Selwyn Hodder, 09 576 3459, 0274 470 836