Government Decision Sounds Death Knell For Once Mighty River
The Waiau River is condemned to another 50 years of abuse because of a decision by the New Zealand Government to exempt the Manapouri Power Scheme from inclusion in important freshwater management policy.
The Government’s decision to exempt the scheme in the Draft National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management effectively sounds the death knell for a river already choking to stay alive, a spokesperson for the Waiau Rivercare Group, Paul Marshall, says.
“The Waiau used to be New Zealand’s second largest River, bigger than the mighty Waikato. Now it is little more than a drainage channel, often highly sedimented and choked with didymo blooms and toxic cyanobacteria in summer – unsafe to swim in,” Mr Marshall says.
“It is rapidly reaching a point where the river will simply not recover if it doesn’t get more water from upstream. To give you some idea, returning just 3% of what Meridian takes would transform our Awa.”
“That would be impossible with Meridian exempt from the National Policy Statement – all we are asking is that Meridian be part of the conversation.”
“This exception removes our community's voice for the Waiau River for the next 50 years. To be heard, hydro must not be exempt.”
Regional support to see the power scheme included in the freshwater management policy, is widely held. Supporters include Environment Southland, the Southland Conservation Board, the Waiau Fisheries and Habitat Enhancement Trust, The Guardians of Lakes Manapouri, Monowai and Te Anau and the Government’s four freshwater advisory groups.
“These people are at the coalface and they know very well how precarious the situation is if we continue to ignore the damage that low flow has had, and will have, on the Waiau.”
Exempting the Manapouri Power Scheme from its Essential Freshwater Package means:
- No more water for the Waiau River. Since 1996 Meridian Energy (51% Government owned) has gradually increased the water it takes from the River.
- The Community is excluded from consenting decisions about the water for 50 years – the last chance was in 1996.
- The Regional Council must do what it can for the Waiau River by regulating the rest of the Community – with only 5% of the River.
The Power Station takes 64% of New Zealand’s surface water and discharges it into Doubtful Sound, in the UNESCO Fiordland National Park on the west coast rather than its natural course down the Waiau River to the South Island’s south coast. This results in significantly reduced flow in the Waiau and the problems associated with that.
Disappointed by the government’s decision to exempt the Manapouri Power Scheme from the Draft National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, the Waiau Rivercare Group is petitioning the Government to include the power scheme.
“We ask all New Zealanders to stand and support us as we work to conserve and replenish this national taonga. Please support us as we continue our fight to restore our Awa.”
The Group’s petition is here.