Environment Minister Amy Adams has banned the damming of Central Otago’s Nevis River for electricity generation.
In a decision released today (Friday), the Minister has settled a long-running battle between the New Zealand and Otago Fish and Game Councils and local power company Pioneer Generation.
Adams says that a dam or diversion on the Lower Nevis would have major negative effects on its wild and scenic qualities and on fishing and kayaking.
In particular she singles out protection for the rare native fish, the Nevis galaxiid.
The fish and game councils originally applied to amend the Kawarau Conservation Order to ban damming of the Nevis.
A special tribunal agreed to amend the order in 2010, but that decision was appealed by Pioneer Generation to the Environment Court.
The court, however, came up with a split finding, Judge Jon Jackson allowing the possibility of a small dam but his two fellow commissioners favouring a complete ban.
The split finding meant that the Environment Minister had to make the final decision.
Adams says: “This has been a difficult decision and one that I have given a great deal of thought and consideration.
“I have decided in favour of a unique native fishery and an unusual river feature in agreeing to amend a water conservation order to add ‘outstanding characteristics’ and prevent damming on the Nevis River.
“The benefits of preserving the option of a dam on the Nevis River, which is a tributary of the Kawarau River, are relatively insignificant in terms of NZ’s overall electricity generation capacity.
“I am guided by the commissioners’ findings and am of the opinion that the benefits of banning future damming are more compelling and of greater national benefit.
“It is important to protect the Nevus galaxiid and trout fisheries, and the wild and scenic characteristics of the river, especially for fishing and kayaking.”