Waitohi scheme gets a green light

ECAN Commissioners have approved the Hurunui Water Project’s (HWP) application to Environment Canterbury for consents to take water from the Hurunui River for irrigation (Report and Decision of Hearing Commissioners, (PDF)).

The Waitohi Irrigation and Hydro Scheme (WIHS) intends to take water from below Māori Gully, and impacts the less-frequently paddled Hawarden Gap section and the lower river. There are no dams on the Hurunui – water is stored in an adjacent catchment.

Whitewater NZ and Whitewater Canoe Club submitted extensively on the project to preserve recreational amenity and safety. Thanks are due to those who put considerable effort into marshalling evidence and attending hearings.

The WIHS is far less damaging to kayaking amenity than HWP’s original proposals that involved dams on the Hurunui South Branch and Lake Sumner and takes at various points downstream. It will, however, have a significant impact on the Hawarden Gap section and downstream. WIHS involves an intake structure below Surveyor’s Stream – 0.5km below the existing Maori Gully get-out taking up to 17 cumecs, a further intake on the south (right) bank downstream from the Mandamus confluence, that would take up to 26.1 cumecs, and a further intake at the Amuri plains, taking up to 12.3 cumecs at or about the existing intake. The water will be stored in a series of dams in the nearby Waitohi valley.

Consent conditions require a minimum of three “no take” days each year to enable use of the Hawarden Gap or the lower river, and to provide up to another seven days per year subject to reservoir levels, and that the intake structures are designed in consultation with Whitewater NZ and Jetboating NZ, and involve certification by appropriate experts with experience in recreational boating and kayaking. River access may be enhanced.