Some great news at last
The Minister for the Environment David Parker has announced that an application from Westpower Ltd to build and operate a hydro-electric power scheme on the Waitaha River in Westland has been declined.
FMC would like to congratulate the Minister on a thoroughly considered decision that puts protection of the environment ahead of commercial interests and development on public conservation land. The news is welcomed by recreational users and environmental organizations around the country.
A report to decision maker recommending that the application be rejected was submitted to Hon David Parker on 12 June 2019, and signed off by the Minister on 27 August 2019. A press release by the Department of Conservation was published on 28 August 2019.
Some background on the Waitaha River and Westpower’s proposed hydro scheme:
- The Waitaha is a pristine river in Westland, flowing into the Tasman between Harihari and Hokitika. It carves its way through 3 deep gorges of outstanding landscape value (Morgan Gorge, Waitaha Gorge and Windhover Gorge) and is one of the most coveted runs for elite kayakers. The Waitaha Valley is equally highly significant to trampers, with the historic Ivory Lake Hut located in its headwaters.
- The Waitaha River is also a significant habitat for a number of endangered species, including the whio / blue duck (Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos).
- In July 2014, Westpower applied for a concession for a hydro scheme that would take water from the lower course of the river, the intake being above the Morgan Gorge.
- FMC submitted against Westpower’s application, and so did other recreational and environmental groups.
- A decision on the Waitaha hydro scheme was due by mid 2017.
- In June 2018, DOC sent all submitters a letter outlining a proposal by Westpower, which was meant to address the potential adverse effects of the hydro scheme on recreation (kayaking and tramping) in the Waitaha valley, but was rejected by recreational users as a bribe and an insult.
Read previous posts on the proposed Waitaha River hydro scheme on the FMC website:
Photo at top: Kayaker in Morgan Gorge, Waitaha River. Photo (c) Kev England