Norman: Nevis dam makes no sense

JOHN EDENS
Last updated 05:00 19/01/2011

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Proposals to dam the Nevis River could destroy the region's landscape and its back-country tourism economy, Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said.

The Nevis Valley has been the focus of a fight between environmental groups and Pioneer Generation over the energy firm's plans to dam the river at two points below the Nevis Crossing.

Dr Norman, who rafted a 6km section of the river near the Crossing to highlight the plight of threatened waterways in New Zealand, yesterday said hydro scheme plans made no sense.

Pioneer appealed against a special tribunal decision prohibiting damming on the river, which is home to a rare native fish, the Gollum galaxiid.

Mr Norman said his first visit to the remote Central Otago valley was phenomenal.

New Zealand was sold to tourists as a country with wild places to visit and damming the Nevis made no sense, he said.

"Even if the focus is on the economy then you're undermining the natural capital (by damming), which this part of the economy is absolutely dependent on.

"It doesn't make sense economically, we have to think how we get electricity without damming another river."

The Nevis offered goldmining relics, kayaking, fishing and native flora and fauna, he said.

Otago Fish and Game chief executive Niall Watson, who accompanied Mr Norman, said there was new evidence for the Environment Court hearing expected later this year.

The river offered outstanding back-country fishing but information about how anglers perceived the Nevis and the river's fishing characteristics was not considered at the original hearings, he said.

"There's a mass of new information on the biological values of the river.

"That's certainly worth going to court over," he said.

Mr Watson said the Nevis was an extraordinary river, offering mining remnants, indigenous flora and fauna, landscape, trout fishing and kayaking.

Last year the New Zealand Historic Places Trust formally recognised the Lower Nevis Valley as nationally significant.

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