River park and trail group attacks dam plans

"Think Big" projects such as Contact Energy's four hydro-electric proposals for the Clutha River are outdated, says the chairman of a group working to create a parkway along the length of the river.

The Clutha Matau-Au River Parkway group was "resolutely opposed" to Contact's plans, group chairman Lewis Verduyn, of Wanaka, said yesterday.

"These kinds of 'Think Big' projects are not relevant in the 21st century," Mr Verduyn said.

"Large dams are considered undesirable by most Western countries because they are more destructive, expensive and less reversible than sustainable alternatives."

Contact outlined details of its proposals last Thursday and sought feedback on four options.

Mr Verduyn said the parkway group was not a "protest group" and had done an immense amount of work since 2003 towards its aim of creating New Zealand's biggest river parkway, along the 338km length of the Clutha river, together with a river-length walking trail.

It was working with groups right along the corridor who were investigating and planning walking and cycling trails along the river banks.

"It is too early to say what form our opposition to Contact's plans will take, and who will want to be involved, but obviously we believe that a healthy, living river is more desirable for tourism and recreation than a dead reservoir."

He said the group disapproved of all four hydro-electric options proposed, which it believed would destroy the vast economic potential of the river parkway and trail.

Those two ventures - the parkway and trail - offered long-term, sustainable and economic benefits to the local communities, Mr Verduyn said.

"Tens of millions of dollars annually will be injected into communities along the river when the trail grows. In today's world, this natural asset is more valuable to us than another hydro dam."

This country was already over-reliant on hydro power, which had poor winter and dry-year security of supply, he said.