DOC, Meridian and Genesis agreement to significantly boost freshwater conservation
IntroductionEfforts to protect native wildlife in Waitaki braided river systems will get a significant boost under a $2.3 million per annum agreement between DOC, Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy.
Date: 27 July 2023
It will build on the successful work of Project River Recovery, a long-running and successful conservation programme which has developed a foundational understanding of braided river systems. Ongoing work will further inform how plants and animals living in and around these ecosystems are protected and managed.
The agreement comes as Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy apply to renew their resource consents to take and use water for the nationally important Waitaki and Tekapo Hydroelectric Power Schemes.
The Waitaki River Catchment is a nationally important braided river ecosystem that’s home to a range of threatened or at-risk native birds, insects, lizards and fish, including taonga species.
DOC Director-General Penny Nelson says the agreement will significantly expand the scope and scale of the successful programme in the Upper Waitaki river system, known as Project River Recovery.
“The new funding, starting from 2025, means we can expand our weed and predator control and wetland conservation into the Lower Waitaki catchment, meaning a much larger area will benefit.
“We will also increase the existing braided river habitat restoration and island creation (for nesting river birds), wetland enhancement, and research and monitoring along the Takapō, Pūkaki, and Ōhau rivers.
“Over the past three decades, Project River Recovery has developed tools and techniques to improve braided river ecosystems and protect species. This agreement will allow us to carry out an even more ambitious conservation programme for the duration of the resource consents.”
Genesis and Meridian are each lodging independent applications for new resource consents to authorise the operation of the Waitaki and Tekapo Power Schemes for the next 35 years.
The consent applications will be on the same basis as current schemes’ activities and consented flexibility with the expectation that the schemes’ significant contribution to New Zealand’s renewable electricity supply is retained. The two schemes currently generate about 18% of the country’s annual electricity needs and provide more than 75% of average hydroelectricity storage.
Genesis’ Chief Operations Officer Rebecca Larking said Genesis had worked with DOC and Meridian on Project River Recovery since 2010, and was proud to renew and extend the partnership.
“We’re committed to maintaining strong relationships to address the effects of our power scheme and enhance biodiversity, while meeting the renewable electricity needs of New Zealand as we progress toward a low carbon future,” says Rebecca Larking.
Meridian Chief Executive Neal Barclay also celebrates the expansion of Project River Recovery, which Meridian has been involved in and funded since 1991.
“As we look forward to the next 35 years of these critical hydroelectricity schemes and their contribution towards the decarbonisation of the New Zealand economy, it’s important we also raise the bar and work harder to protect important biodiversity. We have a proven starting point in Project River Recovery and it’s exciting to think we can do better by investing in taking that even further through this partnership with DOC, Genesis and the Waitaki Rūnaka,” says Neal Barclay.
Project River Recovery was set up in 1990 through a similar agreement. The programme’s work includes intensive weed control, predator control, construction of wetlands, and research and monitoring programmes. More info is available at Project River Recovery.
Braided rivers like those found in the Waitaki River System are a dynamic and globally rare type of river characterised by their wide gravel beds, numerous channels and highly variable flows.
The area is a stronghold for some rare native birds, such as the critically endangered black/kakī stilt. It’s also home to more than 250 native plants and a wide range of native fish, invertebrate and lizard species.
The Waitaki Hydroelectric Power Schemes were built between the 1930s and 1985 to provide renewable energy to generations of New Zealanders. The schemes provide more than 75% of the country’s average hydro-electricity storage.
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