Progress on braided river protection

Environment Canterbury today reported good progress on collaborative efforts to protect Canterbury’s iconic braided rivers.

Last week the regional council’s representatives again met Fish & Game, Land Information New Zealand, the Department of Conservation and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu (Forest & Bird and Federated Farmers are also part of the group) to implement the agreement reached earlier this year that consistent management of all land in and on the margins of Canterbury’s braided rivers is required.

Chris Keeling, Environment Canterbury Team Leader Strategy & Planning, said the immediate focus of the group was on land use and land management on braided river margins, which has been the subject of community concern recently.

“We are looking to build a better understanding of current land ownership and management before developing solutions,” he said.

“For this purpose we will start by focusing on one river in detail – the Rangitata River in South Canterbury - looking at land ownership, land use type and the management policies of the various agencies.

“We chose the Rangitata because there is a complex range of land ownership, both private and public, and good works are being done there. For example, on the Upper Rangitata there is a strong focus on improving habitat for braided river birds by a number of agencies and organisations like the Upper Rangitata Gorge Landcare Group. Removal of broom, gorse and other woody weeds is part of this programme.”

Council Chair David Bedford said he was confident the result of this collective effort would be the robust and comprehensive braided river management the community expects. “We acknowledge a number of legacy issues and now we need to move forward,” he said.

A recently operative plan change, Plan Change 4 of the Land & Water Regional Plan (the “Omnibus” plan change) strengthens the rules regarding removal of vegetation from braided river beds and defines those beds to make it easier to understand how to comply with the stock exclusion rules.

“We now have the tools to better protect Canterbury’s unique braided rivers,” Mr Bedford said. “Alignment of work programmes and appropriate rules will together help greatly with the preservation and enhancement of our big rivers for future generations.”

Meanwhile, a prosecution for illegally clearing riverside land in the lower Waitaki has successfully gone through the Alternative Environmental Justice (AEJ) process.

On 3 November 2016 charges were withdrawn in the Christchurch District Court against the directors of Station Peak Dairy Limited as both Environment Canterbury and the defendant agreed to alternative outcomes which benefited the community. 

For recent video clips on the importance of braided rivers and how they are being managed, click here