Waitaki River group major guardian

A community group spawned by the abandoned Project Aqua power scheme along the lower Waitaki River has now became a major guardian with an important role to play in the future.

The Lower Waitaki River Management Society was formed in 2006 after a series of public meetings at Glenavy organised by groups and individuals worried about the future of the river below the Waitaki dam.

Those meetings followed the cancellation of the Meridian Energy Ltd Project Aqua power scheme in March, 2004, and were prompted by the community's desire to have a greater say and involvement in the river's future.

On Thursday night at the Waitaki Bridge Hall, the society held its fifth annual meeting, with chairman Bill Penno saying the group was now well-established and had "a sound vision".

Over the past five years, with strong community support, it had taken some resolute steps that would have a lasting effect.

Projects on and surrounding the river needed to be developed and he was confident sponsorship could be found for them.

"The Waitaki River is a very large and dynamic braided system. It is not a natural system. The lower river is, in effect, the tailrace of a giant hydro-electric production complex," he said. It also supplied water to irrigate thousands of hectares of farmland.

"All of us are still learning how to manage in a sustainable manner the river itself and protect and enhance the ecological biodiversity that is contained in it and the surrounding area," he said.

Over the past year, the society had played a major role in Resource Management Act procedures for the Meridian north bank tunnel concept power scheme.

The society's appeal to the Environment Court resulted in a thorough review of conditions, with more than 50 changes made.

"There is no doubt the conditions are now vastly more robust and we should be very pleased with the achievements made to try to mitigate the effects on the in-stream values of the river," Mr Penno said.



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