A Court Case of National Significance

Dear Secretary

We are seeking financial help from every freshwater angler in the country to fight for our Water Conservation Orders.

Environment Court for the Rakaia River WCO Declaration Proceedings – ENV-2023-CHC-7.

On 15 February 2023 Christchurch Regional Council, (more commonly known as Environment Canterbury, or ECan) applied to the Environment Court for a declaration that it ‘has no statutory duty to enforce the provisions of the National Water Conservation (Rakaia River) Order 1988 (WCO)…’ other than to ensure its regional policies, plans and resource consents are not contrary to it.

In their own words they believe ‘Canterbury’s Regional Council’s monitoring functions under section 35 of the Resource Management Act 1991 do not extend to directly  monitoring compliance with, gathering information on, and keeping records under the WCO’ beyond its obligations in respect of monitoring its plans, policies and consents issued.

Manawa Energy (ex Trustpower) have signed up in support of ECan, particularly as a negative outcome might force them to stop diverting the Harper and Wilberforce rivers into Lake Coleridge and then selling the water twice – once in the form of HEP and again by those and other releases being diverted off into pipes and canals by Central Plains Water Ltd and over eighty other irrigators.  Further support for their case comes from major irrigation and dairy companies including Central Plains Water Ltd and Dairy Holdings.

Both North Canterbury Fish & Game and the Environmental Defence Society submitted counter-declarations – that ECan are responsible for monitoring adherence to the WCO and the New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers have filed as ‘interested parties’ under s274 of the Resource Management Act to this case, along with the NZ Salmon Anglers  Association and NZ Future Rivers Trust.

Our (NZFFA) position is that the requirements of the Rakaia Water Conservation Order (WCO), such as to retain the relevant waters in their natural state, are not

being met and our members have witnessed the following changes to the operation of the lower Rakaia River:

  1. build-up of sediment and formation of vegetated islands as well as what appears to be deliberate agricultural encroachments into the River
  2. build-up of periphyton (algae)
  3. deteriorating water quality
  4. mouth closures and flooding events
  5. disappearance of Stokell’s Smelt endemic to the east coast of the South Island
  6. loss of smelt numbers that use to register in assessments as TMTC (to many to count)
  7. loss of black billed gull population
  8. loss of sea run trout

We believe ECan has granted resource consents that should not have been granted because their failure to monitor the relevant waters makes them incapable of understanding the impact on the WCO.

This is a court case of national significance – it will decide who is responsible for monitoring and managing all WCOs across New Zealand from the Motu in the north to the Oreti in the south.

This is why the Minister for the Environment, Dept of Conservation, Fish & Game NZ and Ngai Tahu have also registered their interest in the case.

We engaged legal counsel in March 2023 who have been preparing our case which commenced this August 2023.

The NZFFA executive, individuals, fishing clubs, Future Rivers Trust and the Ministry for the Environment have all provided funds to help us.  However, we are still well short of where we need to be fund-wise..

This is a classic David & Goliath battle in economic terms, Manawa Energy, ECan and the irrigation companies have very deep pockets, well funded legal teams and strong financial motivation to keep the status quo.  We believe we have formidable legal counsel, extensive on-the-ground historical knowledge of the Rakaia fishery, tenacity and a deep moral sense that if we don’t stand up to persistent ruination of our precious freshwater rivers and lakes, then who will?

Your contribution and any additional support you think you could offer would be most welcomed.  Please donate to 02-0524-0112601-000

Many thanks and kind regards

David Haynes

Secretary & Treasurer
New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers
Ph: 03 546 6051
Mob: 0272 351 833
E: secretary@nzffa.com


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1 Response to A Court Case of National Significance

  1. Wilco Terink says:

    Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a good outcome for the environment of this precious river. However, as you say, those companies earn so much money at the cost of the environment that it’ll be very hard to win this. From my own experience I can say there are many things wrong with the consents and monitoring and enforcement thereof. Wish you guys all the best in achieving a desirable outcome.

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