Why has the WWCC committee committed club funds to help Whitewater NZ defend the Hurunui River?
The Hurunui is vital to our club members’ interests:
- it is close to Christchurch
- access is always available and easy, other than into the South Branch
- it is kayakable at just about any time
- it provides whitewater for both the beginner and the experienced paddler
- there is a great variety of hydraulic features that interest and challenge us
- it provides a great variety of flows from flood to very low
- very often the water is clear and the sky is blue
- the surrounding scenery is stunning
All of this makes boating the Hurunui an exhilarating and rejuvenating experience. It is our local river, and we must fight tooth and nail to protect it.
What has happened to date?
We were advised on 18 August 2009 of the Special Tribunal’s draft decision for a Water Conservation Order on the Hurunui River, which was largely (but not completely) in our favour. It found we "established a strong case for a water conservation order". Amongst other things, the Tribunal found that the mainstem from Sisters Stream to Surveyors Stream at the bottom of Maori Gully was outstanding for white water recreation (kayaking, rafting, bugging), and deserved protection in its natural state. The remainder of the lower Hurunui has a prohibition on damming to protect the contribution it makes to the Upper Hurunui fishery.
What didn’t we get in the draft WCO?
The draft decision on the WCO did not provide any protection at all for the South Branch (which along with the Lake Sumner outlet is one of the two dam sites for which Hurunui Water Project has applied) even though the Tribunal found that the South Branch contributes important sediment and flows that support the outstanding values downstream of the confluence between the North and South Branches – particularly in Maori Gully from a kayaking perspective. Devils Fang Falls was created by a flood from the South Branch.
Why has Whitewater NZ appealed the WCO?
Whitewater NZ (formerly the NZRCA) became aware that a number of parties including the Hurunui Water Project planned to appeal the draft WCO on the North Branch in the Environment Court. The appeal process could result in the draft WCO being added to but most concerningly it could even be thrown out entirely. The committee and Whitewater NZ believe it would have been negligent to stand by and risk losing the lot. By appealing, kayakers have a chance to gain protection for the South Branch, and also to resubmit and add to our evidence on the importance of the main river in order to help keep the protection provided by the draft decision on the WCO. Whitewater NZ submitted its appeal only after consultation with the WWCC about the value of the Hurunui to members and the Christchurch paddling community.
Why didn’t the Committee consult all members before committing funds?
It was in late August that we became aware of the likelihood of other appeals on the draft WCO. All appeals on the WCO had to be made by 4 September so the committee had to decide on whether it would financially support an appeal at the committee meeting on 1 September. As a committee we are of the view that the Hurunui is our local river, our habitat, without which our club would not thrive. We believe the Hurunui river survey we completed as part of the WCO application showed that the majority of members value the Hurunui highly and make such regular use of this that few members would not want us to support preserving and perhaps adding to the protection proposed by the draft WCO.
How much has been committed?
After an extensive discussion we agreed at our 1 September committee meeting to contribute up to $10,000 to Whitewater NZ for the Hurunui WCO appeal in the next 12 months, and to support the continued appeal in future years by an annual review of donations, subject to Whitewater NZ fundraising from other sources. We know that Whitewater NZ is making an application to the Ministry for the Environment to cover the bulk of the anticipated costs. The decision to allot up to $10,000 was based on a need to provide certainty to Whitewater NZ that early costs could be met without tying the club to greater expenditure before the wider membership could make a decision at next year’s AGM. Though $10,000 is a lot of money the actual expenditure since the decision has been $1,008.
In addition to the funding, we will continue to provide volunteer labour to support the appeal. Doug Rankin, Hugh Canard, Tony Ward-Holmes, Ian Fox and Graeme Wilson, amongst many others, have put in hundreds of hours to date on this project. Other than volunteer labour our costs in the WCO application process to date have been minimal, but as the appeal process is to be heard in the Environment Court legal and expert witness costs will be inevitable and necessary.
What is happening with the dams?
In August, just before the draft WCO decision, HWP made a formal application for the two dams even though the WCO process was underway. Emily and Graeme prepared the WWCC submission against HWP’s application, and this was submitted to ECan on 11 September. Their application was opposed at the recent Dambusters protest and this and other pressure has resulted in HWP briefly placing their application for the dams on hold. Obviously they are hoping that their WCO appeal will allow them to put a dam on both branches of the river.
How can I find out more?
The WWCC Committee meeting on 19 January 2010 will specifically discuss the state of play on the WCO. All members are invited to attend, and we will provide a verbal update. We will remind members of the date and venue closer to the meeting. Alternatively, please ring me or either of the people below:
Hugh Canard ph 332 3414
Graeme Wilson ph 027 480 2405
Whitewater Canoe Club