31 July 2018
Rangitata River Appeal
A battle of David and Goliath proportions is about to commence over 10 cumecs of Rangitata Water with a band of stoic Salmon Anglers having appealed to the Environment Court the granting of this additional water. The group consists of spokesperson Paul Hodgson, the NZ Salmon Angles Association, South Canterbury Salmon Anglers Association and Future Rivers.
We need to ask is when is enough enough, how much water should a river give before we say no more?
The Rangitata River is protected by a Water Conservation Order, often likened to the National Parks status for rivers. The Rangitata gained its Conservation Order in 2006 to protect its outstanding natural values for all freshwater fish, wildlife, outdoor recreation and cultural characteristics.The salmon fishery is in crisis, having declined alarmingly. The fishery and the river`s other outstanding values are now hanging in the balance, a balance which many fear will reach a tipping point as result of this additional 10 cumec water take.
And one of the causes of the decline is placed firmly at the foot of the company wanting to take the additional water, the Rangitata Diversion Race Management Ltd. (RDRML). Since its inception some 70 years ago it has never operated with an effective fish screen which has meant young salmon on their annual migration down river to the sea have often ended up feeding seagulls on a farmer's paddock much to the ire of anglers. While the RDRML will be replacing the current ineffective fish screen with a new state of the art screen, anglers remained concerned about the extra water take.
Since the Conservation Order came into effect another 20cumec has been consented for abstraction from the river, and this proposed new take adds a further 10 cumecs, this will bring the combined potential instantaneous take to about 65 cumecs a second from the river at flows of 142cumecs. That's just a little shy of 50% and there is nothing to stop the next person from coming along and applying for the next 10 cumecs and so on... currently there is no upper limit on the volume that can be taken.
Canterbury's rivers are in a very poor state, from significant abstractions, and nutrient problems. The habitats provided by braided river systems such as the Rangitata River are being degraded as the demand for irrigation continues. It's time those who make the decisions started to listen to the people, after all the rivers belong to all New Zealanders. Our rivers need to be managed in the interests of all, for the next generations, rather than the benefit of a few today.