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Project Aqua: Waitaki River Would Continue To Flow

The Waitaki River Would Continue To Flow Under Project Aqua

Meridian Energy would not have proposed Project Aqua if it meant having to say goodbye to the Waitaki River.

Meridian Energy has already done significant research and investigation into the ecological values of the river and its water. The company recognises that the river is of value to a range of people for varying reasons.

In order to proceed with Project Aqua, Meridian Energy must satisfy all the conditions laid out in the Resource Management Act (1991) which includes the ‘sustainable management’ of New Zealand’s natural and physical resources.

“Saying ‘goodbye’ to the Waitaki River is not an option. We believe it is possible to have the benefits of the electricity Project Aqua will produce while managing the river’s resources sustainably,” says Alan Seay, Meridian Energy spokesman.

Project Aqua will change the river – it will reduce the lower river’s flow by about two-thirds (from 390 to 130 cumecs). Despite this, expert fisheries advisors from NIWA and Cawthron Institute have concluded that it should be possible to maintain the salmon and brown trout populations in the Lower Waitaki River.

Under Project Aqua the Waitaki River flow, between the intake at Kurow and the outfall, would be similar to the most commonly observed flow in the Rakaia River.

Meridian Energy has also proposed a draft River Management Strategy, which would provide a co-ordinated approach to the management of the lower Waitaki River.

This proposes a range of mitigation including greater vegetation control to ensure the flood fairway and braided river character is maintained.

At the moment the growth of vegetation in the river is uncontrolled and some plants are threatening to choke the river, increase the flooding risk and diminish the braided river character.

“The river will still be there with Project Aqua, albeit a smaller and different river, but still a good river with high values,” says Alan Seay.

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