The Nevis Valley. Photo by Lynda van Kempen.
Certain restrictions on Nevis Valley land classified as an
outstanding natural landscape will no longer apply after
tenure review of those properties, the Environment Court
The information was highlighted during the final day of
evidence on a proposed amendment to the water conservation
order on the Nevis River.
The seven-day hearing in Queenstown before Judge Jon Jackson
and commissioners John Mills and Kathryn Edmonds concluded
The New Zealand and Otago Fish and Game Councils, Whitewater
New Zealand Ltd and Pioneer Generation Ltd had appealed
against the decision of a special tribunal, appointed by the
Ministry for the Environment.
The tribunal found the water conservation order should be
amended, prohibiting damming or diversion of the river, to
protect the habitat of a native fish known as the Gollum
galaxiid. Under the present conservation order, the door had
been left open for a hydro-electricity dam.
Lawyers for the councils, Whitewater and Pioneer, and 16
other groups and individuals who were parties to the appeal,
were asked to make their closing submissions in writing.
Judge Jackson has reserved the court's decision on the
The court will make a recommendation to the Minister for the
Environment, Amy Adams.
The case was being heard at the same time as an appeal
against changes to the Central Otago district plan. Three
organisations wanted the boundary of the area defined as an
outstanding natural landscape broadened to include the whole
Agreement was reached in that case partway through the
proceedings, and all parties have now agreed the catchment of
the Nevis River - the entire valley - should be classified as
an outstanding landscape.
Pioneer has plans for hydro-electricity development on the
river but has not yet sought resource consents. It owns the
pastoral leases for the two properties in the valley, Ben
Nevis on the west side of the river and Craigroy on the east
side. Those leases are going through the tenure review
process, and parts next to the river will be freeholded,
subject to covenants.
One of the conditions under the covenants is the Minister of
Conservation will "not unreasonably withhold consent to
hydro-electricity development" where that is not precluded by
the water conservation order.
Central Otago District Council planning consultant David
Whitney gave evidence yesterday. In response to a question
from Central Otago Environmental Society lawyer Mike Holm, he
agreed certain restrictions on land classified as an
outstanding landscape would no longer apply after the
property had gone through tenure review.
However, other "layers of rules" in the district plan would
restrict the development that could be carried out on that
land, Mr Whitney said.
"Am I correct to believe that Craigroy and Ben Nevis, going
through the tenure review, once it is freehold, it will be
possible to erect structures and construct roads on them?" Mr
Mr Whitney said other rules in the plan relating to
structures and earthworks would apply.
He believed the resource consent process was the best way to
decide whether the river should be dammed.
A similar view was held by the Otago Regional Council, its
director of policy and resource planning, Fraser McRae said.