Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 


Don't let TrustPower steal the Wairau

12 June - Nelson

Don't let TrustPower steal the Wairau

If TrustPower's plans to build a hydro-electric power scheme on the Wairau River goes ahead it will destroy one of New Zealand's most magnificent braided rivers, and the endangered wildlife that lives there, Forest & Bird says.

The Tauranga-based power company wants to divert most of the Wairau's flow through 49 kilometres of canals, reducing the middle reaches of the river to a mere trickle for much of the year.

Forest & Bird Top of the South Island Field Officer Debs Martin says the proposal would have a devastating effect on the natural character of the river and habitat of a wide variety of plant and animal species that live in and around the river and associated wetlands.

"Braided rivers in their natural state are one of the most threatened ecosystems, both worldwide and in New Zealand. The Wairau is one of New Zealand's most precious natural resources, which will be lost forever if the scheme goes ahead," Debs Martin says.

She says the proposal will threaten endangered bird species including black-fronted tern, black-billed gull and wrybill, as well as native fish and invertebrates.

She says the low flows proposed under the scheme would have seriously adverse impacts on plant and animal life by:

* causing smaller river channels to dry up, reducing food supply and habitat for birds
* reducing nesting habitat and increased disturbance and loss of nests
* increasing access to nests by introduced predators
* increasing water temperatures to levels that will kill aquatic species
* destroying wetland habitat.

Forest & Bird research shows the Wairau meets six of eight criteria for international protection under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and is currently seeking this status, Debs Martin says.

"If the hydro scheme goes ahead, the natural character of this superb river and the life it supports will be gone forever. Destruction of New Zealand's most intact braided river system is far too high a price to pay for electricity that could be generated by more environmentally sustainable means."

Background notes

TrustPower has applied to Marlborough District Council for numerous water permits, discharge consents and land use consents required to construct the hydro scheme.

Public hearings begin on 12 June and are expected to continue for five weeks.

Forest & Bird is far from alone in seeking to save the Wairau. Of 1451 submissions made in response to TrustPower's application, 904 (or 62%) are opposed.

Those opposing the scheme include Fish & Game, the Department of Conservation, the Ornithological Society of NZ, Jetboating NZ, NZ Professional Fishing Guides Association, NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers Clubs, Marlborough Amateur Rowing Association, Nelson Canoe Club, Marlborough Environment Centre, Nelson Trout Fishing Club, Marlborough Freshwater Anglers Club, as well as many local residents, winemakers, aquaculture operators, farmers, iwi, tourist operators, recreational users and business people.

WAIRAU HYDRO SCHEME - WHY TRUSTPOWER'S CLAIMS DON'T STACK UP

1. TrustPower's claim:

THE IMPACT OF THE SCHEME ON THE WAIRAU RIVER ENVIRONMENT AND WILDLIFE WILL NOT BE SIGNIFICANT.

Forest & Bird's response:

The 170km-long Wairau is one of the world's last and finest intact braided river systems, and is internationally biologically significant. Braided river ecology is one of the most threatened ecosystems worldwide and within New Zealand.

The Wairau provides habitat for endangered black-fronted tern, black billed gull and wrybill, and is a breeding ground of the banded dotterel, Caspian tern, and a diverse native braided river fish population.

At the mouth of the river the Wairau Lagoons cover 2000ha of marsh and mudflats, which provide habitat for more than 90 species of wildlife, including New Zealand's largest colony of royal spoonbills.

The hydro scheme will cause significant destruction of the river ecosystem, threatening a range of endangered wildlife.

2. TrustPower's claim:

LOW RIVER FLOWS LIKE THOSE PROPOSED FOR THE SCHEME ARE ALREADY COMMON ON THE WAIRAU.

Forest & Bird's response:

TrustPower proposes to reduce river flows to just 10 cumecs for half the year, reducing the 49km middle reach of the river to a virtual trickle.
The river only reached such a low level for 148 days (or 0.8% of the time) of the 14,952 days between 1959 and 2001. Nearly all occurred in the big droughts of 1973 and 2001. The scheme will increase these uncommonly low flows to about 150 days EVERY YEAR.

3. TrustPower's claim:

A MANAGED FLOW REGIME WILL NOT AFFECT AQUATIC FOOD SUPPLY FOR NESTING BIRDS.

Forest & Bird's response:

The natural character of braided rivers' multiple braids provides substantially greater habitat and feeding opportunities than channeled rivers and reduced flows.

The low flows will cause smaller river channels to dry up, destroying important habitat for fish and water insects, significantly reducing food supply for birds by an estimated 40%.

Sustained low flows may also increase summer water temperatures to levels that could kill fish and insects, further reducing birds' food supply, and most importantly will increase access by predators to vulnerable nest sites.

4. TrustPower's claim:

"STRATEGICALLY LOCATED INTAKE SCREENS, FISH PASS AND VELOCITY BARRIERS WILL PROTECT FISH."

Forest and Bird's response:

The scheme will significantly reducing the habitat and food production for trout and other aquatic species in the affected reach, with unknown effects on the fishery in other parts of the river.

It will have a detrimental effect on fish migration, particularly to North Bank tributaries. Both native fish and sports fish need to access the sea from the upper reaches of the river. The scheme will reduce fish numbers - therefore reducing fishing opportunities for both native and sports fish. The proposal is opposed by recreational fishing groups for these reasons.

5. TrustPower's claim:

"IF DAMAGED IRREPARABLY, NEW NATIVE WETLANDS WILL BE CREATED."

Forest & Bird's response:

Irreparable damage to wetlands, by definition, can never be repaired. The loss of endemic wildlife populations is not reversible - and these complex and finely balanced ecosystems are not something that can be artificially replicated or sustained.

Marlborough has already lost 99% of its wetlands, leading to significant loss of biodiversity.

TrustPower's proposals to build new "wetlands" are nothing more than storage ponds surrounded by plants.

6. TrustPower's claim:

THE FIVE NEW POWER STATIONS WILL BE AESTHETICALLY DESIGNED TO BLEND IN WITH THE ENVIRONMENT.

Forest & Bird's response:
The Wairau River provides spectacular natural scenery. Man-made structures such as canals and power stations - no matter how "aesthetically" designed - will be conspicuous in the landscape and will detract from its stunning visual beauty.

7. TrustPower's claim:
"THE HYDRO CANAL COULD PROVIDE RELIABLE IRRIGATION WATER SUPPLY."

Forest & Bird's response:

Removal of water from the riverbed would reduce reliability of the Wairau aquifers and security of irrigation supply. There is insufficient evidence about the potential impact on groundwater and natural springs.

8. TrustPower's claim:

"THE HYDRO SCHEME IS SYMPATHETIC TO CULTURAL AND HERITAGE VALUES IN THE WAIRAU VALLEY."

Forest & Bird's response:
The name "Wairau" means "many waters." The scheme will destroy many of the braided channels from which the river takes its very name. The river itself is intrinsically part of the area's heritage - destruction of the river is in itself destruction of heritage.
A Cultural Impact Assessment report by Tangata Whenui ki Wairau says the proposal will detrimentally affect the quality of food traditionally harvested from the river and will degrade the mauri (life force) and the wairua (spirit) of the river.

9. TrustPower's claim:
NEW ZEALAND AND THE MARLBOROUGH REGION NEED THE POWER GENERATED BY THE SCHEME TO AVOID ELECTRICITY SHORTAGES AND CREATE ECONOMIC GROWTH.
Forest & Bird's response:

According to the Ministry of Economic Development, New Zealand needs 3355mw of new electricity generation by 2025, including 890mw of hydro. Wairau would provide maximum output of just 70mw - just 2% of the total needed - and there is no guarantee of even this level of production.

TrustPower admits the scheme will operate at between 25 and 75% of maximum output for half the time, and at 75-100% of maximum output for nearly a third of the time. This means it will average 25-48mw or about half its capacity.
With electricity demand increasing nationwide by 150mw a year, the scheme would give less than six months relief from projected national demand.
Connection to the national grid means the supply may not be available to the Marlborough region - it will be sold on the spot market to the highest bidder in New Zealand. There is no guarantee the scheme would bring lower local electricity prices and it will not make Marlborough self-sufficient for power supply.

The scheme will not provide 100% reliability of supply because there is little storage capacity and unpredictable water flow.
Electricity generators need to focus more on more efficient use of power, rather than produce increasingly more power to meet ever-increasing consumption. The answer to our electricity generation issue is not more hydro power on braided rivers - less environmentally damaging options should be explored.

10. TrustPower's claim:

THE SCHEME WILL CREATE NEW RECREATIONAL FACILITIES.

Forest & Bird's response:
The Wairau is currently the most popular regional sports fishery for trout, with 11,000 angler visits each year. The scheme will dramatically reduce fish numbers and angling opportunities, and will reduce public access to most of the Wairau.

The river is widely enjoyed by kayakers, whitebaiters, game hunters, jetboaters, rowers, swimmers, birdwatchers, picnickers and walkers - all of whom will experience detrimental effects of the scheme. Boating activities like kayaking and jetboating will be limited in the 49km reach. The river will also become more dangerous to river users because of increased fluctuations in flow.

Recreational organisations including Fish and Game, NZ Jetboating Association, Marlborough and Nelson Freshwater Fishing Clubs and NZ Professional Fishing Guides Association, say the scheme will reduce recreational opportunities.
TrustPower's proposals for a new pond, boat access, tracks, carparks and plantings do not compensate for the loss of existing recreational opportunities. Park-like facilities nowhere near replicate the complexity of a dynamic braided river system.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

 

Breed Laws Don’t Work: Vets On New National Dog Control Plan

It is pleasing therefore to see Louise Upston Associate Minister for Local Government calling for a comprehensive solution... However, relying on breed specific laws to manage dog aggression will not work. More>>

ALSO:

Corrections Corrected: Supreme Court Rules On Release Dates

Corrections has always followed the lawful rulings of the Court in its calculation of sentence release dates. On four previous occasions, the Court of Appeal had upheld Corrections’ practices in calculating pre-sentence detention. More>>

ALSO:

Not Waiting On Select Committee: Green Party Releases Medically-Assisted Dying Policy

“Adults with a terminal illness should have the right to choose a medically assisted death,” Green Party health spokesperson Kevin Hague said. “The Green Party does not support extending assisted dying to people who aren't terminally ill because we can’t be confident that this won't further marginalise the lives of people with disabilities." More>>

ALSO:

General Election Review: Changes To Electoral Act Introduced

More effective systems in polling places and earlier counting of advanced votes are on their way through proposed changes to our electoral laws, Justice Minister Amy Adams says. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Our Posturing At The UN

In New York, Key basically took an old May 2 Washington Post article written by Barack Obama, recycled it back to the Americans, and still scored headlines here at home… We’ve had a double serving of this kind of comfort food. More>>

ALSO:

Treaty Settlements: Bills Delayed As NZ First Pulls Support

Ngāruahine, Te Atiawa and Taranaki are reeling today as they learnt that the third and final readings of each Iwi’s Historical Treaty Settlement Bills scheduled for this Friday, have been put in jeopardy by the actions of NZ First. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Damage De-Regulation Is Doing To Fisheries And Education, Plus Kate Tempest

Our faith in the benign workings of the market – and of the light-handed regulation that goes with it – has had a body count. Back in 1992, the free market friendly Health Safety and Employment Act gutted the labour inspectorate and turned forestry, mining and other workplace sites into death traps, long before the Pike River disaster. More>>

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Politics
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news