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Kayaking at level 2

Whitewater at Level 2

On Thursday (14th May) NZ will move into Level 2 Pandemic Alert. Whilst some lucky paddlers were able to get a whitewater fix during the Level 3 Alert over the past couple of weeks, for most of us the shift to Level 2 is likely to be our first chance to get back out on the water.

There is still a risk of community transmission of the virus, which means that we can’t simply go back to paddling as usual. So, please don’t rush into this, play it safe and follow these guidelines for whitewater paddling during the Level 2 Alert:

  1. Transmission of the virus is most likely whilst travelling in a vehicle, so plan this carefully. Here are some things you can do to reduce the transmission risk while driving shuttles and driving to / from a river trip:
    1. Drive to and from the river by yourself or create an expanded “shuttle bubble”, and stick to this grouping whilst driving (and on the river, if possible)
    2. Drive with windows open
    3. Use good personal hygiene whilst sharing a car
  2. Stay well within your skill level to reduce the likelihood of needing emergency services.
  3. Paddle in small groups and try to keep your group exclusive 
  4. Keep a record of who you paddle with
  5. Use physical distancing wherever possible, particularly at the put-in and take-out, where other people may be present
  6. Avoid touching each other’s gear, and if this is not possible, disinfect or use hand sanitiser as quickly as possible
  7. Overnight trips are OK as long as 1m physical distancing is maintained
  8. If you are sick, have any respiratory, cold or flu-like symptoms, do not go paddling

Advice for clubs:

Small public gatherings are allowed at Level 2, so club activities can take place. However, please follow the rules above and create a documented safety plan including the following points:

  1. Use Sport New Zealand’s Touch Free Contact Register to record all group participants in club actuivities
  2. Participants should have no respiratory symptoms and should have had no contact with others with respiratory symptoms in the two weeks prior to the trip
  3. Four days after the trip, the Trip Leader should check with all trip participants for any respiratory symptoms and notify everybody on the trip if symptoms are observed.
  4. Disinfect any shared equipment in the same way as you would to prevent the spread of Didymo

Please be mindful that for many of us, we’ve not been out on the water for a while, so we may be out of practice. That means taking extra precautions around rescue provisions and general river safety.

 Use your common sense – don’t rush into this, play it safe and be kind!

Covid-19. An update from the President. 23-03-2020.

Things change fast. We are now in even stranger, tougher times. As of today, 23-03-2020, there are 102 cases of Corona virus, or Covid-19, infection in New Zealand. Community transferred cases have been detected and this means that the virus is now not contained. We are now in a Level 3 Alert status and at midnight on Wednesday (11:59pm, Wednesday 25-03-2020) we will enter a Level 4 Alert Status, which is likely to be in place for at least 4 weeks. Please see https://covid19.govt.nz/ for all the facts, rules, regulations and advice. 

Our Prime Minister stated in her speech today that “We are all now preparing as a nation to go into self-isolation in the same way we have seen other countries do. Staying at home is essential.”  

What does this mean for us?

  • New Zealanders who are outside of essential services must stay at home and stop all interactions with others outside of those in your households.
  • People can still go for a walk or exercise and enjoy nature, but must keep a 2m distance from people at all times.
  • Food will always be available – production will continue, distribution will continue, supermarkets will continue.
  • Medicines will always be available, healthcare for those that need it will be available, and usual financial support, like benefits, will continue as normal.
  • All actions must be solitary, and people should only spend time with those they are in self-isolation with, and keep distance from all others at all times.

WWNZ advises that all club activities and paddling in groups should cease. 

Whitewater kayaking can be a hazardous activity, which is made safe by the group you are paddling with. As such, whitewater kayaking should not be undertaken during the Level 4 Alert, unless your river trip group is solely within your household group. 

Whitewater kayaking alone should not be attempted. 

For individuals whose sanity requires that they simply must get in a kayak and go for a float, solo flatwater kayaking or ocean surfing is OK, just make sure that you absolutely adhere to the <2m distancing rule.

To those that read my message on Friday (20-03-2020), I hope you started to make contact with people who you’ve shared whitewater experiences with and had a laugh with them? Although, I hope you DIDN’T go out and cram 7 people in a shuttle vehicle?

Self-isolation means that you can’t go and see people like you usually would, so make sure you talk regularly with family and whānau. Check up on people who you know might be vulnerable. 

Remember, as river people, we’re well suited to dealing with adverse conditions, so take advantage of your inbuilt resilience and be strong. Help others to be strong too.

Kia kaha river people.

Kev England

President, Whitewater NZ.

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

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.

Access

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.”

Conservation