Joint press release of Forest & Bird, Fish & Game, Operation Pātiki Ngāti Hori ki Kohupatiki, Whitewater New Zealand, and Jet Boating New Zealand:
Conservation, iwi and recreation groups that applied for a Water Conservation Order on the Ngaruroro River in Hawke’s Bay are celebrating the decision of a Special Tribunal to recommend a WCO on the upper river.
Forest & Bird, Fish & Game, Operation Pātiki Ngāti Hori ki Kohupatiki, Whitewater New Zealand, and Jet Boating New Zealand lodged the application for a WCO on the Ngaruroro River in 2015.
Forest & Bird’s Tom Kay, spokesperson for the co-applicants, said while the outcome isn’t all they had hoped for, it is still a win for the health of the river.
“New Zealand has very few rivers like the Ngaruroro,” says Mr Kay, Forest & Bird’s Lower North Island Regional Manager.
“The upper reaches of the Ngaruroro are about as close as you can get to pristine. It’s an amazing landscape, the water is crystal-clear, there’s incredible white-water kayaking, and it’s an outstanding habitat for fish.
“A WCO ensures those outstanding values are protected for future generations.”
In a report released on Friday, the Special Tribunal hearing the case recommended granting in part the application for a WCO for the upper Ngaruroro River.
They did recognise the upper Ngaruroro’s rainbow trout fishery, rafting and kayaking, wild and scenic values, and other natural characteristics as outstanding and worthy of protection.
Some values put forward by the applicants for the upper river were not included in the recommendation for a WCO.
The Special Tribunal recommended a prohibition on damming or altering the flow of the upper river, protection of its water quality through specific limits, and provision of fish screens for any takes or diversions of water.
While the tribunal recognised the outstanding status of some values in the lower river, such as habitat for birds, it did not consider other values to be outstanding and did not recommend a WCO for this section.
“We’re disappointed that those values we have assessed as outstanding in the lower river – the braided reaches, the jet boating values, the cultural significance – were not deemed to be outstanding by the Special Tribunal.”
Mr Kay says the co-applicants will review the Special Tribunal’s recommendation and consider whether to take any further action during a 15-working-day submission period in which submitters on the WCO can express any concerns.
Mr Kay attributed the WCO recommendation not only to the outstanding values of the river, but to the strength of the case put forward by the co-applicants.
“We represent a diverse range of interests that are all centred on the health of the river – we’re all here to protect the river.”
Following the submission process, the recommendation to grant a WCO will go the Minister for the Environment for consideration.
There are 15 water bodies around New Zealand that have Water Conservation Orders for their outstanding values.