Water protection order for Hurunui River

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
31 August 2007, at 1:00am

NEW ZEALAND - An application has been lodged to protect the Hurunui River in Canterbury under a Water Conservation Order.

The joint application to the Ministry for the Environment by Forest & Bird, Fish & Game and the NZ Recreational Canoeing Association, with support from the Department of Conservation and Ngai Tahu hapu Ngai Tuahuriri and Ngati Kuri, would give the upper Hurunui similar status to a national park.

Chris Todd, Forest & Bird’s South Island Field Coordinator, says a Water Conservation Order would protect the Hurunui’s nationally outstanding wildlife, white-water, high country landscape and cultural values.

"The Hurunui provides outstanding habitat for native fish and birds, especially nationally endangered black-fronted tern and black-billed gull, and is one of the most popular rivers in New Zealand for fishing, white-water rafting and kayaking. It is a natural treasure which merits the protection of a Water Conservation Order."

The Hurunui is Canterbury’s sixth largest river by volume, and flows 200 kilometres from its headwaters in the Southern Alps to the sea near Cheviot. A Water Conservation Order would protect the river and its upper tributaries, Lake Sumner and seven smaller lakes formed by retreating glaciers that are considered icons of the South Island high country.

An application has been made by a consortium of power companies and irrigators to dam Lake Sumner and the Mandamus River (which joins the Hurunui River). If this proposal goes ahead it will severely reduce endangered tern and gull habitat, prevent fish and eels from migrating, curtail white-water rafting and canoeing and vandalise one of Canterbury’s best-loved landscapes, Chris Todd says.

A Water Conservation Order would prevent destructive development of the upper catchment, which is currently virtually unmodified, but would allow existing irrigation schemes below the upper catchment to continue, he says.

"The Hurunui is one of Canterbury’s most loved rivers. It is home to some of our most endangered species and provides some of our best recreation and stunning landscapes. A Water Conservation Order will protect this magnificent part of our natural heritage for the enjoyment of this and future generations."