Gollum too precious, say Nevis opponents

PRECIOUS: Gollum galaxiid from the Nevis River.
PRECIOUS: Gollum galaxiid from the Nevis River.

The decades-old bid to open up the Nevis River for damming is back on, and a tiny, extremely rare native fish, the gollum galaxiid, is playing a central role.

The three-week Environment Court hearing under Judge Jon Jackson began in Queenstown yesterday.

The bid to be able to dam the river for hydro power generation began in the 1960s, but was formalised by Pioneer Energy in 1993.

Last year Pioneer went to the High Court to try to prevent Fish and Game from presenting evidence on native fish.

It argued that Fish and Game was a sport fishing body and lobbying to protect a river on the basis of protecting a native fish - which grows to only 13cm long and cannot be caught in a sport fishing context - was not fair.

Pioneer's High Court bid failed and Fish and Game are now free to present evidence on the gollum during the hearing. In her opening submission, Maree Baker-Galloway, legal counsel for New Zealand and Otago Fish and Game, the Clutha Fisheries Trust, White Water New Zealand and Central Otago White Water, said new evidence on the gollum galaxiid would offer "additional reasons to justify a complete damming prohibition". Judge Jackson was now free to "fix" mistakes that had become accepted in past hearings that were "fundamentally flawed," Ms Baker-Galloway said.

"Because there has been a previous judgment on some of the facts and issues before you in this proceeding, this does not prevent you from inquiring into those matters again," she said. ". . . it is open to you not only to reassess the merits of previous findings . . . such as wild and scenic values, and fisheries values, but also to fix provisions that with the benefit of hindsight are flawed on a more fundamental."

The Southland Times