Wild Rivers: The Matakitaki

Home to white-water kayakers, recreational fishers and threatened black fronted tern, the stunning Matakitaki river was recently under threat from a proposal to build a series of up to three dams for hydro-generation. 

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Where is this river found? 

The river drains the Southern Alps from Nelson Lakes National Park and joins the Buller river near the town of Murchison. 

From the high ranges of the peaks, the waters slide over extensive braided river flats into an impressive gorge wtih flood waters raging up to 10 metres high.


Why's it so special? 

As well as being a prime destination for white-water rafters & recreational fishers, the river is home to several threatened species including long-tailed bats, freshwater fish & black fronted terns. There is still more work to be done on determining the extent of threatened invertebrates and plant communities, like the very rare frost flats.

Long Tailed Bat 

Our long tailed bat is one of two mammalian species in New Zealand. Once described in colonies of thousands in the 1800s the long-tailed bat population has been declining significantly in recent years. The Buller region has some of the few remnant populations left in the South Island

Black-Fronted Tern 

The black-fronted tern can only be found on the shingle-bed rivers of the South Island. Once numbering tens of thousands of individuals, the population has dwindled recently to just 5000 individuals. 

Longfin eels

Longfin eels can live to over 100 years old, and migrate downstream once in their life to spawn at sea. The Buller remains one of the only network of rivers in the country that does not have dams throughout its length, so the eel population here is very special. Eels are on the decline throughout the country due to loss of habitat through dams and overfishing.

Western Weka

Western weka are incredibly inquisitive native birds. Decline of weka populations has been dramatic. The gorge offers a valuable home for these iconic species. Great spotted kiwi also rummage through the forest floors here.


What's proposed to happen? 

A local consumer-owned electricity company, Network Tasman, has plans for a series of up to 3 dams on the river from above Mammoth Gorge (flooding the extensive braids), at Horse Terrace Gorge, and down to the Blue Rock gorge – the middle section of the Mātakitaki.

Rather than integrating with the national market, Network Tasman is using the proposal to store water to complement their wind and solar plans. Construction of the scheme itself could be close to $100 million. Forest & Bird is currently in mediation in the Environment Court to ensure the natural values of this river are upheld in the Tasman District Council Resource Management Plan.  

Local consumer-owned electricity company, Network Tasman, had plans for a series of up to 3 dams on the Mātakitaki River.  As a result of community opposition, and with falling demand for electricity, Network Tasman have shelved the plans, and have put one of the properties they purchased alongside the river onto the market.  So it's safe - for now.  

Thanks to efforts of all of those who care about the Matakitaki river, the immediate threat of damming is off the current agenda.