Whilst secretive and not as showy as kākāpō, our 35 species of native freshwater fish are fascinating and an essential part of our biodiversity and eighteen of them need to move between freshwater and saltwater to complete their lifecycles.
Kanakana (lamprey) are ancient (360 million years old) and have no bones or jaws (only cartilage and a sucker-like mouth). The young live in the sediment of rivers before they turn bright blue and head out to sea. In the ocean they latch on to other fish and drink their blood until adulthood when they return to freshwater to spawn.
There are also migratory Galaxiid species, so named because their skin patterns look like galaxies of stars. Adults travel downriver to spawn in river mouths juveniles then swim back up the rivers, and, if they avoid our whitebait nets, start the cycle all over again. The Nevis galaxias was instrumental in preventing a dam on our beloved Nevis River.
Tuna (longfin and shortfin eels) can live for over 100 years. As tiny elvers, they journey up streams. After many years (sometimes up to 80 for longfin eels) they migrate to the Pacific Ocean where they breed and then die.
For all these species, it is crucial that they can move freely within and between their freshwater and marine habitats to complete their lifecycles. Manmade structures that physically block or change the natural flow of rivers and streams can get in the way of this migration. Some species are more affected than others for example īnanga are weak swimmers and can’t climb while kōaro and eels are surprisingly good climbers and can make it up even vertical surfaces. Adult kanakana put those suckers to good use suctioning onto surfaces though they are often thwarted by sharp or overhanging edges. Watch it for yourself here.
You can identify these barriers and record them so that they can be fixed. It is as easy as downloading the fish passage assessment tool. Then, next time you’re out for a paddle, keep an eye out for culverts with a significant drop, undercut or extremely long structures, fast water flow through a structure or weirs that look too high for fish.
Spread the word, do it for the fish and the whitewater.
WWNZ Conservation Officer
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A few words from a kayaker-come-packrafter
If you hadn’t noticed, packrafting is growing at a great pace, attracting trampers and adventure racers, and quite a few kayakers. One of packrafting’s principal attractions is the extremely short learning curve compared to whitewater kayaking. This exposes novice paddlers to moving water hazards from the first few minutes of taking it up, and more or less anyone can bomb down Grade 2 whitewater on their first day. This is a major challenge for Packrafting Association of New Zealand (PRANZ).
Our aim with PRANZ is to foster the safe enjoyment of packrafting. This means initially to set the benchmark for paddling safely and then to spread that culture of safety far and wide through the local paddling communities. Packrafters, like most kayakers, typically don’t form or join clubs. PRANZ has been running national and regional Meets and this has been a good social foundation.
PRANZ does not want to become a quasi-commercial instruction provider, so the focus is on turning individuals into paddlers who are aware of their place in a group. We have called this our Kaiārahi programme.
The Kaiārahi roles are:
If this sounds like a kayak club trip leader’s role, that’s no coincidence. PRANZ leaves instruction (personal skills) to commercial entities and focuses on the social aspects of risk management. Rescue skills, specifically technical skills like people and gear recovery in whitewater, are mostly taught by professional instructors. A lot of this will be familiar to kayakers and rafters, but there are some specific differences due to two factors;
Similar? Packrafters too, love rivers and whitewater – difficulty according to taste.
Different? Most packrafters actively enjoy a 4-5 hour hike into a Grade 2 run.
See you on the river,
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Recreating in and around our rivers comes with big responsibility. As whitewater sports become more accessible and gear improves, more people are paddling and in more remote waterways than ever before. This is great for us, but if we’re not careful, it could be bad news for the spread of freshwater pest plants which can cause huge damage to river ecosystems and native flora and fauna.
Didymo sometimes known as ‘rock snot’ is an alga that can form large blooms which look like soggy toilet paper. It grows on rocks and looks pinkish brown at the surface and cream in the water. Blooms typically occur in rivers with low nutrient concentrations meaning some of our most iconic and pristine rivers are most at risk. First reported in the Waiau River in 2004, it has sadly already invaded various waterways in the South Island. Thankfully it is not yet present in the North Island.
Lake snow is a sticky, biological material made up of groups of algae that form colonies. Once lake snow gets into a waterway, it can take hold rapidly and form sticky, thick slime, the ecological impact of which is not well understood. Lake snow is now known from a number of large pristine lakes in Otago and Canterbury, as well as a couple of lakes in the North Island.
Pest plants such as Lagarosiphon (Oxygen weed) and Hornwort smother and suffocate aquatic life. They grow fast, displacing and shading our native aquatic plants, block waterways, and the rotting vegetation stops the flow of water which kills fauna and flora.
Removing these species once they have become established in a waterway is expensive and difficult so it’s best to prevent their spread. Weeds and algae can grab a ride on paddling gear and start new infestations. Didymo and lake snow are microscopic and can be spread by a single drop of water. Even if you can’t see it, you could be spreading it. The South Island is a controlled area for didymo meaning it is a legal requirement to clean all gear used in the water before going from one waterway to another.
Check out the video below for practical tips on how to ‘Check, Clean and Dry’ all your paddling gear whenever you move between waterways to prevent spreading pests.
If you find unusual plants or algae you should note the location and take a photo or sample if possible. Inform your local DOC office or Regional Council as soon as possible or call the pests-and-diseases hotline on 0800 80 99 66.
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Below is a brief run down of the submissions sent, idea’s worked on, successes had and work done. It is not a complete list, however we like to keep our community and membership in the loop, if any of it takes your interest and you would like to help or find out more please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Motatapu Open Day 2021, Photo by Max Rayner, WWNZ Otago/ Southland Ambassador
Website/ River Guide: This is next on the list we’re working to improve the river guide’s mobile friendliness and to update parts where we can.
Check Clean Dry Campaign: Keep an eye out for updated information on how you can be a champion and keep our rivers free from aquatic pests.
Resource Management Act Reform: A critical legal change that WWNZ will work to ensure paddling interests are heard and given weight to.
West Coast Wild Rivers park: This project is led by FMC, we are looking into ways to protect the pristine rivers of the southern West Coast.
Fiordland Gauges: We are excited to announce that we have negotiated access to a flow gauge on the Cleddau river, a rain gauge near falls creek on the Hollyford river, and are currently pursuing a flow gauge on the Hollyford as well.
Motatapu Access: We have secured access to the Motatapu River on an annual basis, to be organised and managed by the local WWNZ ambassador.
Mangahao Fund: The hard work done by Nigel Parry and others has culminated in the establishment of the Mangahao fund, officially held by WWNZ, this fund will be pivotal in improving paddling opportunities in the Lower North Island, and in awesome national scale projects.
Ngaruroro Decision: All our work here has been done, our legal team did an exceptional job presenting the interests of paddlers and the river itself. We are still awaiting the judgement to be delivered, when it is we will update everyone through Social Media and our website. For now we cross our fingers. Thank you to all those who generously donated to help protect the river on a permanent basis.
Memberships & Member Benefits/ discount card: Membership has been growing fast! We have added the digital membership card to the site, and are working to update all of the member benefits that we are offering this year. Keep an eye on the site and our Social for updates!
Charity Status: WWNZ has applied for charity status, we expect to find out the outcome of our application in the coming months.
FMC Affiliation: We are officially affiliated with FMC, we look forward to working with them and their member organisations on projects such as the West Coast Wild Rivers park and other projects that will better protect our rivers and access to them.
Photo Competition: Congratulations to the winners for taking out what was a very high calibre competition at the end of last year. Photo Comp 2022 will be held in the middle of the year, so best dust the camera off!
1st – Oliver Eden-Mann’s photo of Citroen Extreme Race 2020
2nd – Maurycy Prystupa’s photo from Christmas at Kaituna
3rd – Rodd Hill’s photo of River Mutton on Huka Falls (seen below)
With the ongoing updates to the website we will have a copy of all our submissions uploaded for you to find/ peruse if you would like.
Don’t forget, if you want some sweet looking tee’s then check out the Whitewater NZ Tee, all proceeds go towards improving paddling in New Zealand: Click Here
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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
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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.
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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.”
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