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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