Forest & Bird says it's important the Ngaruroro river is recognised and protected for its outstanding values.
This week Forest & Bird will be presenting evidence to a Special Tribunal considering whether to grant a Water Conservation Order (WCO) over the river.
“New Zealand has very few rivers like the Ngaruroro,” says Tom Kay, Forest & Bird’s Lower North Island Regional Manager. “It’s one of the only braided rivers in the North Island and is outstanding habitat for native birds and fish.”
Threatened bird species reliant on the lower river and estuary include white heron, Australasian bittern, banded dotterel, and the black-billed gull – the world’s most endangered gull.
A hearing for the upper Ngaruroro river was held in 2018. The hearing this week will consider evidence relating to the lower section of the river, from Whanawhana to the coast.
Mr Kay says the Ngaruroro has very high water quality right through its lower reaches. “Unfortunately, this is really unusual for a lowland river in New Zealand now.”
“The Ngaruroro is also popular with Hawke's Bay residents and visitors who swim, raft and kayak in the river every summer,” says Mr Kay.
Forest & Bird lodged the application for a WCO on the Ngaruroro river in 2015 alongside co-applicants Fish & Game, Operation Pātiki/Ngāti Hori ki Kohupatiki, Whitewater New Zealand, and Jetboating New Zealand.
Despite vocal opposition from some lobby groups about the effect on water users, Mr Kay says the proposed WCO is compatible with sustainable rural activities.
There are 15 water bodies around New Zealand that have Water Conservation Orders for their outstanding values.
The hearing start today, Tuesday 26 February at the Napier Conference Centre and run for two weeks.
The schedule for the hearing is available here.
Forest & Bird’s evidence is available here.
Drone footage and photos of the lower river are available here.