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Coast hydro scheme upsets kayakers

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 12/10/2016

Whitewater kayakers are gearing up to fight plans for a small power scheme on a West Coast river, which they say will ruin a unique kayaking gorge and pristine waterway.

Local electricity company Westpower wants to build a 16-20MW scheme on the Waitaha River, between Hokitika and Franz Josef, to supply up to a quarter of the Coast's power needs, or enough for about 12,000 homes.

With a tunnel diverting water to a powerhouse on the flat, it would be the largest hydro scheme on the Coast but Westpower says it will benefit the local community.

It lodged concession applications with the Department of Conservation two years ago, and last month DOC advertised for submissions.

But Whitewater NZ says the scheme's weir will divert water away from the unique-in-New Zealand Morgan Gorge, spelling the end of kayaking there and on other stretches of the pristine river.

"This would be a big loss to kayakers," said Whitewater NZ's Doug Rankin.

"The Morgan is a spectacular schist gorge, with fluted water-smoothed rock walls and a white water path down through huge boulders. It provides a supreme Class 5 challenge for expert kayakers with the skill and nerve to venture into it."

DOC says it has not made a final decision on the concession but Dr Rankin said it defied logic.

Submissions close on November 14.

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