Rakaia in trouble

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    Here is a copy of an email I received a few days ago

    We Need Your Help with the Rakaia Water Conservation Order!

    Please Take 10 minutes to submit on TrustPower’s Rakaia scheme

    TrustPower have lodged an application to vary the Rakaia Water Conservation Order to allow increased irrigation and hydro power generation from the river. We need help from anglers to ensure that this proposal does not compromise this special river. A submission need not be a complicated or long. You just need to say how you think this scheme will affect the things you value, such as salmon, fishing and the environment. We have summarised our submission below to help you create your own.

    When you are finished send it to Environment Canterbury (PO Box 345, Christchurch) or email to mailroom@ecan.govt.nz by November 21. If you want to speak at the hearing you need to say so in your submission. Remember to tell three friends to do the same. Feel free to call us on 03 366 9191 for help.

    What are Fish & Game concerned about?

    Our main concern is that taking water out of the Rakaia will lead to less habitat for juvenile salmon. Young salmon like to live in side braids and backwaters of the Rakaia but there will be less of these if the scheme goes ahead. We don’t think TrustPower have done the work to figure out the effect of this. They say juvenile salmon are happy in the mainstem of the river where the current is much stronger, but we have not seen any evidence of this. Trustpower are not offering to do anything to offset this impact on the Rakaia salmon fishery. We are also concerned that TrustPower have not done the research to figure out if the Rakaia River mouth will close as a result of the project, which will affect both fishing and fish migration. Lake Coleridge anglers may also be affected by plans to have the lake at higher levels during summer months. TrustPower have not done enough homework, but want to charge ahead regardless. Is this a risk worth taking with a salmon fishery already under pressure?

    A summary of Fish & Game’s submission:

    Water Quality Concerns

    • The 40,000 additional hectares that will be irrigated under the proposed scheme will have major impacts on lowland waterways through nutrient discharge from intensified land-use. Because this is considered to be outside of the scope of the WCO, TrustPower are not suggesting any mitigation measures for this. Until water quality standards and nutrient limits are set in the command area, this proposal should not be considered. Much of the run-off will end up in Lake Ellesmere and prevent any recovery of this outstanding wetland.

    Concerns on the Effect on Salmon Populations and Angling

    • F&G are concerned at the lack of information about the likliehood of rivermouth closures once the scheme is in place. The following two statements are made in a TrustPower report of river mouth and coastal processes. The conclusion of this report offers no further comment on the issue of river mouth closures.

    “Further hydrological analysis of time-series data is required to assess the likelihood of

    increased duration of low flow events at the river mouth.”

    “It is unclear from the hydrological modelling results (Tonkin and Taylor 2010, Beca 2011)

    whether the Project will increase the duration of low flows periods at the hapua, or whether

    the effects of changes in flow due to the Project will attenuate downstream to be negligible at

    the river mouth.”

    • Lake Coleridge will be held at a higher level for a longer period than it experiences now. It will also not drop as low as it does now. The high levels will be experienced during spring with a gradual draw down over summer to its lowest level in late summer/autumn. A recreation expert (Greenaway) hints at possible effects of a high lake on shoreline anglers and effects on boat users during low levels. Since the high lake level will be experienced during the very popular high country opening period for fishing, F&G consider it appropriate that TrustPower investigate further the effects on shoreline angling during this period. This would involve using expert shore line anglers to assess angling suitability at different lake levels and assessing the loss (or gain) as a result of the scheme. The effect should be expressed by a difference in angling days.

    • Experts for TrustPower predict a 4-7% reduction in juvenile salmon habitat and then go on to say that the effect of this is nil because there is plenty of available habitat in the Rakaia and it is not limiting. F&G maintain that this is still not well understood, earlier studies on the Rakaia (Davis et al, 1983) concluded that habitat is limiting in the Rakaia.

    • Even if we accept that the percentage of juvenile salmon habitat loss is 4-7%. Then this is an effect, in our opinion, that has to be mitigated or offset. TrustPower have not come up with any mitigation measures for this effect.

    • There are minor effects identified for angler and salmon lies. There is no mitigation suggested for that either as TrustPower consider that these values are also not habitat limited

    General comments

    • TrustPower need to obtain a variation to the WCO (that Fish & Game won for in the 1980’s) for their project to proceed. We asked ECan Commissioners to set up a collaborative process before proceeding to a hearing. Unfortunately that has not occurred and parties are forced to proceed to formal, expensive hearings.

    • Under the ECan Act 2010 any WCO amendment has to have regard to the principles of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. The first order priorities under the strategy are the environment, customary use, community supplies and stock water. Both hydro electricity development and irrigation are second order priorities under the CWMS. So far, TrustPower have only developed a proposal that has positive benefits for second order priorities. There are no positive benefits for the environment.


    Angler submissions were vital in winning a WCO for the Rakaia and will be vital in preventing it from being undermined. Please take the time to write a simple submission about the issues that concern you directly.

    These are due at Environment Canterbury by 5pm on November 21. They can be sent by mail to P.O. Box 345, by email to mailroom@ecan.govt.nz or submitted online at http://ecan.govt.nz/get-involved/consen … -form.aspx .

    Tony Hawker

    Environment Officer

    Fish & Game New Zealand

    North Canterbury Region


    Do we want to see the Rakaia River get very low during the summer, or have the mouth even close off as it does down at the Rangitata River? No we don’t. Get your submission in as soon as you can.

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