Fish and Game Southland has kicked off a campaign to highlight two of the region’s outstanding rivers, the Mataura and Oreti.
Fish and Game has joined forces with other organisations in a bid to raise awareness of the country’s most outstanding rivers, and the Water Conservation Orders (WCOs) which give them protection.
The two local rivers, along with their major tributaries, are safeguarded by Water Conservation Orders – the equivalent of National Park-type protection for waterways. The WCO for the Mataura was granted 15 years ago and the Oreti more recently, in 2008.
Southland Fish and Game manager Maurice Rodway said few people were aware of the WCO status, which protect the qualities of these rivers that make them nationally outstanding trout fisheries, “protected from inappropriate development, such as damming for hydro or excessive extraction for irrigation.”
Mr Rodway said signs were being erected to remind and inform the public about the value of WCOs and their use as a tool for protecting wild rivers.
“People either forget or don’t realize that the river environment they enjoy today could have been changed significantly for the worse – if it had not been for a WCO in place to protect those outstanding natural features,” he said.
The WCO granted over the Mataura was fiercely contested at the time by irrigators, power companies and even some local community people who thought it would compromise economic development.
“The reality is that the conservative approach to the granting of consents for irrigation extraction that the Mataura Conservation Order requires has ensured a much more measured approach to development than might otherwise have been the case,” Mr Rodway said.
“In the recent hearing on the cycle trail, the fact that the upper Oreti River was protected by a Water Conservation Order clearly identified it as an outstanding trout fishery of national significance.
"Fish and Game (is) in no way anti-cycling and we hope the benefits of a cycleway can still be realised, without reducing the recreational and commercial benefits provided by the outstanding trout fishing of the upper Oreti".
Former All Blacks captain Anton Oliver is throwing his weight behind WCOs nationally. Although now based in London, Oliver is fronting efforts to preserve and even strengthen the use of WCOs throughout New Zealand.
“WCOs are the highest level of protection that can be afforded to any freshwater body in New Zealand, yet lots of people have never heard of them. We’ve only got a finite number of wild, free-flowing rivers left in this country and some are protected by a WCO,” Oliver said.
“It’s time to get WCOs to the fore and ensure the average Kiwi understands just how precious they are. When a WCO is granted it provides National Park-type status, protecting its outstanding natural values for all freshwater fish, wildlife, outdoor recreation and present and future generations.”
- A WCO recognizes a river or lakes’ outstanding natural, recreational, cultural or heritage values – presently there are 15 WCO-protected waterways throughout New Zealand
- For a full list and descriptions visit OutstandingRivers.org.nz.
- Organisations taking part in the campaign include Forest & Bird, Environmental Defence Society (EDS), Whitewater NZ, Federated Mountain Clubs and other environmental and recreational NGOs.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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