Protection call for non-renewable wild rivers welcomed

 Independent conservation organisation Forest & Bird praised the report on wild rivers and hydro-electricity released today by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE). 

“New Zealand’s wild rivers should not be paying the price for our demand for energy,” Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell says. “Our wild rivers are not a renewable resource. 

“The PCE, Dr Jan Wright, has recognised that once a river is dammed, it is lost forever. Her report is thorough and tackles the core issues.”

Forest & Bird is committed to reducing emissions that cause climate change, but considers that other forms of renewable energy should be chosen over damming wild rivers for hydro-electricity.

“Government policy is failing to protect wild rivers, and we need stronger protection for our few remaining wild and scenic rivers,” Kevin Hackwell says. “We’ve seen how close the pristine Mokihinui River on the West Coast came to being destroyed by an 80-metre-high dam. New Zealand can’t afford to fight battles to save individual wild rivers.”

Forest & Bird is pleased that Dr Wright recommends creating a better balance between hydro-electricity and wild rivers. “We hope the Ministers for the Environment and Conservation will act on the steps Dr Wright has suggested to achieve a better balance,” Kevin Hackwell says.

Although Forest & Bird supports the recommendations of the PCE, it has concerns about the option to hear the resource consent and Department of Conservation concession applications at the same time. “We believe a concession from DOC, as landowner, should be required before the potentially long and expensive resource consent and possible appeal process begins,” Kevin Hackwell says.

The PCE’s full recommendations were:

1. The Minister for the Environment direct her officials (or the Land and Water Forum) to consider how the NPS on Renewable Electricity Generation or the NPS on Freshwater Management can be amended to better recognise the value of wild and scenic rivers.

2. The Minister for the Environment direct her officials (or the Land and Water Forum) to:

a) investigate which wild and scenic rivers outside conservation land would be good candidates for protection with water conservation orders, and

b) investigate streamlining the water conservation order process by requiring a decision within nine months of an application and the hearing of applications by the Environmental Protection Authority.

3. The Minister of Conservation direct her officials to identify important wild and scenic rivers running through stewardship land and reclassify the land if they consider the rivers need protection.

4. The Minister of Conservation direct her officials to investigate transferring the administration of riverbeds located within conservation land to the Department of Conservation.

5. The Ministers for the Environment and Conservation seek amendments to legislation so that either:

a) A commercial operation on conservation land must have approval under the Conservation Act 1986 before resource consents can be sought. 

   or

b) A commercial operation on conservation land that requires resource consent is considered at a single concession–consent hearing, and that the concession and consent decisions are made separately.