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Water Conservation Order Sought For Oreti River

Water Conservation Order Sought For The Oreti River

Fish & Game New Zealand announced today that it has applied to the Minister for the Environment for a Water Conservation Order on the Oreti River in Southland. The application affects the main stem of the river, and specified tributaries upstream of Mossburn.

If a Water Conservation Order is granted it will give the river “National Park” status.

“The application seeks recognition of the outstanding values and natural state of the river upstream of Mossburn and to appropriately protect those values seeks various provisions, including a prohibition on damming of the main stem,” says Maurice Rodway, Fish & Game Southland manager.

“The Oreti River is Southland’s third largest river. The catchment commences southwest of Lake Wakatipu then crosses the Southland Plains to enter the sea near Invercargill about 200 km from its source. It offers superlative trout fishing, unique in the world,” says Mr Rodway.

“The river upstream of Mossburn contains a high density of large brown trout that have an international reputation for their large size and the fishing opportunities they provide. The upper part of the Oreti River gets about 6000 angler visits annually. About 20,000 visits are made to the lower river each year. Fifty nine percent anglers fishing the upper reaches are tourists from other countries (mainly North American and Australia) and 15% are from other parts of New Zealand, leaving 26% from the Southland Region.”

“A Water Conservation Order, if granted, will protect the Oreti’s natural character and outstanding fishery, by restricting the changes that can be made to its existing state. The main stem of the Oreti downstream of Mossburn contributes to the outstanding fishery upstream by providing necessary passage for fish. Fish & Game also seeks to protect this reach of the river by maintaining its undammed state.”

“This is the only restriction being sought downstream of Mossburn, and so that the river can be still be managed to optimise both in-stream and out-of-stream interests,” says Mr Rodway.

“The proposed Order includes the protection of shallow groundwater reserves that are linked to the river upstream of Mossburn. This is to ensure the important spring-fed streams, where they occur, are not deprived of their flows by extractive use and that water from the river is not drawn into the unconfined aquifers as a result of groundwater extraction,” he says.

“The proposed Order also seeks to protect the exceptional water quality of the river upstream of Mossburn, which has low levels of suspended sediments, faecal coliforms and nutrients.”

“The attractiveness and health of the fishery is dependent on the river in its natural state. It is usually clear and trout can be seen so anglers can ‘spot’ the trout they want to catch, and fish for them individually. This enhances the excitement of the fishing experience, especially as the fish are very large. This is a feature of back country fishing in New Zealand.”

“The Oreti provides the best of this kind of trout fishing. An important characteristic is the ability of the river to become clear soon after a flood. This is due largely to the natural state of its catchment. There is very limited development of the catchment for agriculture and there are no point source discharges upstream of Mossburn”, Mr Rodway says.

“The river also provides habitat for black billed gulls, black fronted terns, banded dotterels, South Island pied oystercatchers, pied stilts, paradise shelducks, white faced herons, welcome swallows, mallard and grey ducks. Each of these species utilises the river in its natural state.”

“The river is extremely important for endemic black-billed gulls. The Southland region supports more gulls than anywhere else in the world so the Oreti is nationally, and internationally important for this threatened species. The river may support 10-20% of the world population of these birds. A viable population of black fronted terns lives on the river also. This endemic species is also threatened with a total population of about 5000 living on the rivers of the South Island of New Zealand. It is estimated that 5-10% of these birds live on the Oreti River.”

“Native fish are also abundant in the river. Species comprise alpine, flathead and roundhead galaxias, upland bullies, and longfin eels.”

The Oreti River has special importance for Ngai Tahu. This has been recognised by the Crown in the Ngai Tahu Deed of Settlement and the Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998.

Mr Rodway said that the Department of Conservation and Ngai Tahu supported the application.

“The Application is intended to protect the river in its existing state and allow current uses to continue. Environment Southland will continue to manage the river so that those that live alongside it and use it now will not be further restricted.,” he says.

The Southland Fish & Game region is commencing consultation with adjacent landowners.


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