A SOUTHLAND mother says her children may never be able to swim in the Waiau River if the Government’s draft National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management (NPSFM) is approved.
Waiau Rivercare Group member Claire Jordan said Meridian’s Manapouri power station has not been included in the freshwater management plan.
She said unlike most hydro-schemes in the country, Meridian did not return the water to the Waiau River after generating power, but discharged it into Fiordland’s Doubtful Sound.
“The Manapouri power scheme discharges some 500 cumecs from the Waiau into Deep Cove. This is up to 95% of the Waiau River’s flow and accounts for half of New Zealand’s total freshwater use.”
She said the group had been battling with Meridian through the Environment Court for the past two years to have the ecological health of the Waiau River given due consideration.
The environmental impacts on the river were massive, and the draft NPSFM put even the minimum flows the Waiau River currently had at risk, she said.
“The community is now expected to shoulder the burden of mitigating the impact of the power scheme as best they can with just 5% of the river’s original flow. That burden will fall on everyone in the catchment, except Meridian.”
Ministry for the Environment (MftE) water director Martin Workman said he was aware of the issues, and he appreciated the group’s passion.
He said the MftE’s advisory group also did not agree with the relevant parts of the draft.
“These are proposals that we are consulting on, and Ministry wants this [sort of] feedback to have all the information possible to be able to make their final decision… We just want to make sure people know that the Ministry is listening.”
A Meridian spokeswoman said the company was reviewing the Government’s proposed Action Plan for Healthy Waterways and Meridian supported the objective of improving waterway health, focusing on the priority issues.
“Mrs Jordan said the community was committed to making positive change for the health to the river, but “we cannot do it alone”.