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2019 Year in review

2019 has been a big year for WWNZ. Here’s a brief blow-by-blow run down of what’s been happening with us and around the country:
Waitaha: After a five year long battle, Westpower’s application to put a hydro scheme on the Morgan Gorge was declined. For now this is a great success story, but we remain diligent and protective of this precious place. Ongoing work is now focussing on providing some lasting protection for the Waitaha Valley, possibly in the form of a land reclassification, making it a Scenic or Recreation Reserve.
Kaituna: Early in the year the Bay of Plenty Harbourmaster closed the Lower Gorges, indefinitely. This was an unprecedented move that meant that it was illegal for kayakers to enter the Lower Gorges. WWNZ quickly negotiated a temporary closure for only a short length of the Lower Gorges and began the process of working out the issues that led to the closure. In a monumental effort by WWNZ and local boaters, we re-established legal access to the lower gorges and improved the land owner relationships as well as the on and off river safety. On 6th of December the temporary closure ran out and our right to paddle one of the Country’s most spectacular pieces of whitewater was reinstated!
Ngaruroro: In August the Special Tribunal recommended that the upper Ngaruroro River in Hawkes Bay be protected by a Water Conservation Order, the highest form of protection available for a river in NZ. This was a major success for WWNZ and the other co-applicants (Fish and Game, Forest and Bird, Jet Boating NZ, and Ngati Hori ki Kohupatiki). Ongoing work is now focussed on ensuring that the wording of the resultant WCO is fit for purpose and provides meaningful protection to this important river.
Mangahao: We continue to apply pressure to King Country Energy to abide by their resource consent conditions and provide recreational releases on the Mangahao River. So far we’re not succeeding, but we’re working haaard to make this happen!
Healthy Waterways: The health of our rivers is due to get a big helping hand from a new piece of legislation, that takes water qaulity seriously. WWNZ prepared a straongly supportive submission and pointed out some improvements that could possibly make this legislation even more effective.
Canoe Slalom NZ: Coach Matt from CSNZ has joined the WWNZ Board and is working to improve relationships between whitewater recreationalists and kayak/canoe slalom. This is a very positive move that will see the inclusion of recreationalists and increase the participation numbers at slalom events, as well as up the skills of whitewater river users.
DOC: We’ve been building (metaphorical) bridges with DOC to help assure equitable access to the National Parks for whitewater river users. Ongoing work in this area includes establishing a ballot system for preferred landing sites and working with track designers to ensure walking tracks are constructed with carrying a kayak in mind.
Regional Ambassadors: Around the regions our on-the-ground ambassadors have been doing a great job of smoothing over access issues at the Waihopai, Whakapapa, Huka Falls, Toaroha and a heap of other “business as usual” work to keep our river access friendly and usable.
Board: Our workhorse (past) President, Nigel Parry, stepped down after three years of tireless service and was replaced by Kev England, who has so far managed to fill his very big shoes… Sarah-Jane Luoni took the Vice President role and the rest of the Board positions have been very capably filled by Robin Rutter-Baumann, Paddy Brand, Matt McKnight, Phil Claasens, Phil Clunies-Ross, Dan Kirkman and KT Te Maiharoa.
Bring on 2020 for more big news and good things!

Whitewater NZ, General

Whakapapa access restricted

Todd Henry advises, “There is currently no river access allowed other than the scheduled Genesis releases on the Whakapapa/Whakapapanui River at the moment. Please be respectful of this.”
The Landcorp/Pamu farm at Taurewa has just passed into Iwi hands as part of the treaty settlement. The Iwi are working through existing formal agreements for access over the farm. Two agreements have been approved; the Genesis Recreational Release (scheduled Whakapapa River Releases by WWNZ) and use of the farm for the T42 race (due to safety concerns about using the main road).
Other informal access arrangements are not being allowed at the moment. They are turning away anyone trying to access without arrangement, including recreational users. The farm manager has expressed that in about a month they will be open to formalising arrangements.
There is a concern that if too many people try to get access without an access arrangement in place then this may jeopardise future access and relationships with the local Iwi. So please spread the word. The team at Whitewater NZ are currently working on this issue and will keep you all in the loop.


Kaituna access resolved

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council Harbourmaster, Peter Buell, will not re-issue a closure directive for the section of Pari Tūkino (Gnarly Gorge) on the Kaituna river that has been closed since 1 May 2019.
Whitewater New Zealand and members of the Okere Falls whitewater community have been working hard to facilitate this outcome. Our focus has been to improve access and safety in the lower Kaituna gorges. This has been achieved with the establishment of a legal portage track and scouting vantage points on river left of Pari Tūkino (Gnarly Gorge). A huge thanks goes to the Lake Rotoiti Scenic Reserve Board for authorising this access.
Whitewater New Zealand is also lifting the voluntary closure that has been in place for all three of the lower gorges. However, there are significant changes that paddlers need to note.
Pari Whakahihi (Awesome Gorge) can no longer be run on its own. If you paddle this, you are committing to the whole lower gorges journey.
The portage for Pari Tūkino (Gnarly Gorge) is on river LEFT. This is marked with a red exit sign.
There is a notebook on the portage track that all paddlers need to use to log their trip, the reserve board have requested this as a record of track use.
The updated river signage at the start of the run states:
The lower Kaituna Gorges are a serious Grade V undertaking. For expert kayakers only.
This is a long, arduous expedition style river trip and will require a strong team, careful planning, food and drinking water. Proper footwear is essential.
It is possible to scout Pari Tūkino (Gnarly Gorge) from two vantage points on the portage track (portage is marked at river level). However, be aware that river hazards move and are unpredictable.
Do not drop in to Pari Tūkino without scouting.
Every descent should be treated as a first descent.
Get up-to-date info from a local before attempting the Lower Gorges.
Please be respectful and have a safe trip.
The re-opening is a great outcome and many people have volunteered substantial amounts of time to make this a reality. Huge thanks to the team who put in the mahi. Now the responsibility to maintain this access lies with all paddlers.


Waitaha river hydro application declined

Environment Minister David Parker has declined an application by Westpower for a concession to dam the wild and scenic Waitaha River at Morgan Gorge.
The decision has been awaited since public submissions in 2016 especially the significant submission compiled by Doug Rankin and Shane Orchard on behalf of Whitewater NZ. The minister declined the concession application according to section 17U of the Conservation Act 1987 that preclude activities contrary to the purposes of the act, writing “I agree with these submissions that the experience for those using the area will be significantly lessened through the loss of the environment’s near-pristine, unmodified, wild and remote qualities.”
Whitewater New Zealand President Nigel Parry said he was relieved with the decision, “The Waitaha is a really special place and should be retained in its wild state, particularly when there is an approved scheme in a heavily modified environment waiting to be built on the Arnold. As kayakers and river users, we get a unique view of these remote places and we feel a responsibility to advocate for the preservation of New Zealand’s wild rivers and whitewater resources.”


WWNZ AGM 2018 outcomes

The Whitewater NZ Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held via an online forum on Wednesday 29 August. The online approach was generally regarded as a positive development supporting solid representation and minimising travel. Discussion covered topics such as didymo, pack-rafting, canyoning, and WWNZ financials. Trevor James was voted Canoeist of the Year. A new board was elected. Read AGM Minutes (PDF).

Whitewater NZ

Kayakers resist Kaituna access threat

Whitewater NZ and community representatives recently met with the Lake Rotoiti scenic reserves board where we proposed an access track through the scenic reserve land on river left. For details, see Kaituna River access issue page.
Updated 1 May 2019: The Bay of Plenty Regional Council Harbourmaster, Peter Buell, has issued a directive to close a section of Pari Tūkino (Gnarly Gorge) on the Kaituna river from 1 May 2019 until 1 November 2019. For details, see Kaituna River access issue page or Facebook.
Previously: 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.
See our Kaituna River access issue page and Facebook for additional information.


Mokihinui River protected

The wild and scenic Mokihinui River is to be added to Kahurangi National Park. The Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage announced yesterday that 64,400 hectares of conservation land in the Mokihinui River catchment on the West Coast north of Westport, including 15 km of riverbed, is being added to Kahurangi National Park. This will protect the river and surrounding landscape and wildlife for future generations. Against the submissions of kayakers and conservation groups Meridian was granted resource consent for an 80m hydro dam that would have drowned the entire lower Mokihinui section. After protests and appeals to the Environment Court, Meridian shelved the dam proposal citing economics. The whitewater from Mokihinui forks down is an entertaining class III-IV run, while the upper section from Johnson-Allan confluence is a challenging, remote run. Both sections are accessed by helicopter; DOC Western South Island Director of Operations Mark Davies advises existing air access arrangements will continue. A review of the Kahurangi National Park Management Plan to account for the land addition will unfold over the next few years and will provide kayakers an opportunity to ensure continued access to this treasured river.


Kayakers reject Westpower proposal, seek Waitaha protection

Kayakers have rejected Westpower’s proposal for a trust in mitigation for a proposed dam on on the Waitaha river. Eighteen months ago Whitewater NZ, FMC, Forest & Bird, and numerous individuals submitted to DoC on Westpower’s proposals. Last month, DoC wrote to submitters (PDF) describing additional mitigation measures including a proposed “Westpower Tai Poutini Kayaking Trust” and two additional “no take” days. However, after consideration, Whitewater NZ has responded to DOC (PDF) rejecting Westpower’s proposals as “irrelevant to the myriad matters that demand utmost consideration by the Minister under the Conservation Act.” Whitewater NZ President Nigel Parry wrote, “Morgan Gorge is an[sic] stunningly unique zone of exceptionally pristine character, and serves as a beacon of inspiration and place of reverence for the whitewater kayaking community, both nationally and internationally. The Waitaha river remains one of the last unmodified wild rivers in Aotearoa for the vast majority of its course – and as such, represents a prime example of our shared taonga awa. Our collective duty, and DOC’s specific fundamental task, is to preserve and protect such places for the use and enjoyment of ourselves and future generations.”


1080 drop at Ngaruroro River

A possum control operation is planned for the Tutaekuri area over the summer. The operators advise “there will be no 1080 risk to people who drink water from streams and rivers in the area following the operation. Biodegradable 1080 is highly soluble and does not persist in water or soil. Although 1080 baits can enter waterways, such as rivers and streams during aerial applications, dilution will reduce 1080 quickly to undetectable concentrations in water.” Warning signs will be posted and baits are to be dropped clear of the Ngaruroro River (from confluence with the Taruarau River down to confluence with the Omahaki Stream) and the Tutaekuri River. Please refer to the fact sheet (PDF) for a map and additional details. Any questions can be sent to Andrew Buchanan [email protected] or 0275 141 411.