Nevis Valley stakeholders

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The Nevis River flows through some of the most pristine land in New Zealand and is valued by a large number of organisations and individuals for a number of different purposes. It is not surprising then that the majority of 248 submissions made in relation to the rivers future in terms of becoming a source of hydro electricity were opposed to any developments of this nature.

During the year 2008 Fish and Game Otago made an application to the ministry of the Environment to amend the 1999 Water Conservation Order that allows the damming of the Nevis River under strict conditions. Fish and Game seek to changes that would prohibit any damming of the Nevis River Under any circumstances. Fish and Game is the brand name of the New Zealand Fish and Game Council and 12 Regional Fish and Game Councils. These organisations are more specifically angler and gamebird organisations which have statutory mandate to manage New Zealand’s Freshwater sports fish and gamebird hunting. These different organisations from around New Zealand report to the Minister of Conservation but are not however funded by tax payers, but instead draw their funding from the cost of permits required to fish and hunt in certain areas.

Pioneer Generation are based in Central Otago but own and operate 12 power stations in Otago and Southland. They are run by and major contributors to the Central Lakes Trust. Although Pioneer Generation has no definite plans to dam the Nevis River they have formally opposed the amendment to the Water Conservation Order put forward by Fish and Game to prohibit any damming on the Nevis River. Pioneer Generation believe that nothing has changed since the original order was granted, allowing damming under strict conditions, and that hydro electricity developments on the Nevis could provide the Wakatipu Basin with increased security in terms of electricity supply.

Fish and Game and Pioneer Generation are the two main stake holders involved. There are however, many other concerned parties that have put forward submissions. Most of the submissions put forward were in favour of the amendment to the Water Conservation Order made by Fish and Game. The intention of some of these is however worrying. Recreational groups such as New Zealand recreational canoeing and Central Otago Whitewater made submissions in support, arguing that damming would destroy or limit a resource that enables a popular activity to be carried out. Environmental groups such as the Dunedin branch of Forest and Bird have also put forward submissions supporting the amendment, viewing any future developments on the Nevis River as a threat to the natural habitats for native species.

The intentions of these submissions, in terms of supporting the protection of Nevis River, can be considered in the environment's best interest. However the intentions of submission made by national power companies, that have previously expressed interest in hydro electrical developments on the Nevis, must be taken with caution.

Along side these submissions made by major parties involved with the application are more minor parties concerned for the future state of the Nevis River. Submissions made by farmers, individual anglers, naturalists are just some of the submissions that make up a large portion of the interested parties.

Any future amendments should take all of these submissions into consideration. Further information on the different parties discussed above can be accessed by clicking on the appropriate links.

Opinions of other submitters

Minor submissions concerning Fish and Game’s application for a Water Conservation Order on the Nevis River.

In total there have been 248 submissions put forward in relation to Fish and Game’s application for a Water Conservation order. Of this 248, 236 the vast majority support Fish and Games application, with only 12 submissions opposing it, many of which were power companies, or companies with a monetary interest vested in the possible implementation of dam. The submissions have been made by a wide range of people, ranging from local people with long family ties in the area for many generations, to overseas fishermen who have never set foot in the Nevis valley, to kayaking clubs from the North Island. This wide range of concern for the protection of the Nevis river and valley should be an indication of the immense value it brings to people on the international scale.

Outstanding Fishery Value

The Nevis river, and surrounding valley, holds potential for numerous recreational activities. The most dominant one being its outstanding fishery value.

  • The Nevis is one of New Zealand’s top three trout fishing rivers, and is known to produce trophy sized trout. Not only are the fish an impressive size, but the process of catching them is unique and claimed as one of the most captivating, yet challenging rivers on which to fly fish.
  • A significant percent of the people who made submissions were concerned about the loss of such a fantastic fishing spot, and not all of these people were fishermen themselves. A number of people simply enjoy seeing the trout in the river, while others appreciate the fishing value it holds through the stories of others.
  • Numerous submissions were made by people from overseas, who make the journey all the way New Zealand, purely to fish the Nevis River. The large majority of people in this category claimed that around 60% of the reason they came was for the fish themselves, while the other 40% was for the magnificent experience of being in the wild and natural Nevis valley, and fishing the challenging river.
  • All people who were concerned about the loss of the fishing value alerted to immense loss that a dam would cause, not only for the fish, but for the valley and the experience of being in the valley as well.

Outstanding Recreational Value

Kayaking and Whitewater Rafting

The second most highly alluded to recreational activity, which would be lost through the implementation of a dam, was kayaking and white water rafting. The Nevis River is a grade 5 river, one of the highest grades given to a river. Central Otago Whitewater Incorporated submitted that it is an iconic whitewater kayaking river of New Zealand, and that it is ‘one of a kind.’

Recreational Trips

A lot of people who made submissions were concerned about the loss of the natural and isolated feelings of the valley that would no doubt come with a dam. Many people, both local and visitors to the area enjoy day, or few days, trips to the Nevis Valley. All submitters wrote with emotive language, expressing the emotional value that one gains from such a unique piece of countryside. One submitter made a good point; that it is places like the Nevis valley that make New Zealand what it is. It is a valley which feels isolated and barren, yet remnants of history paint a picture in the minds eye of a time past. Submitters described being in the Nevis Valley as ‘humbling’ and ‘soul enlightening’ experience. It is a place to escape the stresses of daily life, a quiet slice of paradise, that if not protected will join the rest of New Zealand and the world as an increasingly man made suburbia.


The Nevis Valley is also known for its great 4WD-ing tracks. Numerous submitters were concerned about the loss of character the valley would no doubt suffer if a dam were to be built. The remote location and rugged-ness of the valley is always memorable and held in high regard, as one of the best 4WD-ing tracks in New Zealand.

Outstanding Historical Value

The Nevis Valley has a long history, and nearly all submitters alerted to their concern of the loss of the unique historical value of the place. The valley has seen early Maori communities, followed by Chinese gold mining communities, and lastly pioneering farming families. All the submitters spoke of the delight they get out of seeing the relics of days past, and find it to be an educational life lesson, as it 'reminds one of the hardships people in the old days endured.' Moreover, a number of submitters asserted their concern for the protection of burial sites or both Maori and Chinese communities. To dam and flood burial sites is not humane, nor acceptable.

Outstanding Scenic Value

The Nevis River and valley is extremely unique and barren, tussocky landscapes are only found in the Central Otago region. All submitters, despite their reasons for wanting to protect the area wrote of the breathtaking beauty of the place. To modify such a national treasure would be nothing short of a crime of vandalism.

Enjoyment of future generations

A surprisingly large amount or submitters, approximately 85% spoke of their concern for future generations not being able to experience, and gain from the Nevis Valley and river as they, and generations before them have done. Submitters believe strongly that the Nevis holds a character that is vital to the sprit of what it means to be a New Zealander. If future generations have no natural landscapes to enjoy then what it means to be a ‘kiwi’ has truly changed. People gain huge emotional an recreational enjoyment out of the Nevis River valley and think that it would be a crime to deprive our children and their children of such wonderful experiences.

Concern for last remaining pieces of New Zealand’s natural environment.

The fact that every other Central Otago river of a similar nature has been modified has increased the necessity of protecting the Nevis. It is a huge concern to people that so many of our nationally defining landscapes have been ruined in the name of ‘development’. When it comes to the last river of its kind in a region submitters believe it is high time the brakes were put on for good. Damning the Nevis River will cause irreparable damage, and submitters are calling for other solutions to New Zealand’s power shortage to be sought. It is a national treasure that should not be compromised in the name of economic gain.

This final quote sums up the emotive value that the Nevis River and Valley holds:

“…a hidden jewel of a valley that affords peace, a sense of beautiful isolation and a river one can get truly lost in. The Nevis is not about economics, asset utilization, development, progress, etc. That is not the language of the valley. It is about the soul, the way a place can touch your heart, humble you with beauty and the joy of being a guest of nature, leaving it unsullied for future generations.”

Opposing submissions

Submissions opposing Fish and Game’s application for a Water Conservation Order on the Nevis River.

Of a total of 248 submissions, only 12 opposed Fish and Games application for a Water Conservation Order. Interestingly, a significant number of these were applications submitted by power companies, for example; Pioneer Generation, Contact Energy, Trust Power, and also, the Otago Regional Council and Central Otago Regional Council. Clearly there is some monetary gain involve for the power companies if the application is refused and the opportunity to build a dam becomes a real possibility.

A number of individual private submitters expressed their interest in protecting the Nevis River from modification and damning, but thought that Fish and Game’s application for a Water Conservation Order was not the appropriate way to go about achieving this. One such submitted spoke on behalf of Kai Tahu and expressed his concern that the applicant had not consulted Kai Tahu. They are concerned that the applicant has not assessed the cultural implications of the proposal. So while Kai Tahu is not supporting Fish and Games application, they still very much support the ongoing recognition of the Nevis as containing outstanding values. The Nevis holds many values for Kai Tahu, but they believe that these have been broadly recognised in the Otago Regional Council Plan, and furthermore the crown has recognised the significance in the Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998.

One submitter expressed that the Resource Management Act should definably cover the protection of the river if, or when, an application was made to dam it for power purposes.

One applicant strongly opposed the application because he argues that it is based purely on appealing to emotion. He believes the practicality of using the Nevis for water power generation has been overlooked. The submitter also argues that the Nevis valley is special to a small number of people, that the outstanding values have been overstated, that the landscape is no longer natural but actually heavily modified, that historic and cultural values are minimal and finally that the trout spawning habitat would not be lost but enhanced. A couple of other applicants supported similar ideas as these just listed.

Go to Water Conservation Order - Kawarau, History of the Nevis Valley, Water Conservation Order, Environmental Issue and Impact, Nevis valleys outstanding values, Analysis of Water Management