Today we get the sad news that the West Coast Regional Council has approved Meridian Energy’s Resource Consent Application to build a dam on the wild and scenic Mokihinui River. Last year I was lucky enough to go on a club heli trip on the amazing Mokihinui river and I have to say this decision marks a huge loss for New Zealand.
“The Mokihinui River is not only an outstanding river for whitewater kayaking, it is an outstanding river for all recreationalists in New Zealand,” said Glenn Murdoch, conservation spokesperson for Whitewater NZ. “The Mokihinui is a truly wilderness river and the West Coast Regional Council’s decision to allow it to be dammed marks a watershed moment for New Zealand’s environment. This decision, coupled with the National Government’s move last week to weaken Water Conservation Orders in Canterbury, fully illustrates the environmental future that New Zealand’s rivers face,” Mr Murdoch said. “Today we see the loss of one of New Zealand’s most beautiful places.” One of the most sobering statements at the Resource Consent Hearing was the opening paragraph by legal counsel for the Department of Conservation who said, “The Mokihinui hydro scheme is the largest scale proposed flooding of public conservation land in New Zealand since the Manapouri scheme of the late 1960s and early 1970s. If approved, and constructed, it will be the largest inundation for hydroelectric generation purposes of lands and ecosystems set aside for protection and conservation ever seen in this country.”
It appears that New Zealand is throwing away its clean green image and re-embracing the industrial age. Building dams and mines in the national parks just doesn't make sense - are we not conserving them for a reason? Was the decision to protect these areas of land undertaken lightly? Is the government ready for a drop in tourism, do they care?