Griffin Creek canyon back under threat from hydro scheme

Want to help?

Write to Hon Kiri Allan Kiri.Allan@parliament.govt.nz 

(cc: advocacy@nzcanyoningassociation.org )

Briefly explain to the Minister:

  • Who you are
  • Why Griffin Creek is important to you
  • The changes proposed will result in significant impact to the recreational and natural values of Griffin Creek, as explained by this report in July 2020 from the NZ Canyoning Association.  
  • Because the impacts are significant, the Minister should decline the application, or at the very least ensure the application is publicly notified by the Department of Conservation.
Doesn’t have to be a long letter, but it should be your own words, and it should be sent as soon as possible. 
 
Tell your friends to do the same. 

The more people who know about this, and the more that demand the Minister let the public have their say, the better.

Join the NZCA. Its free!

The more people we represent, the louder our voice is.

This video was produced in early 2019 (as we fought the previous variation application) to demonstrate the natural and recreational values of Griffin Creek

Thank you to Jake Huddleston for creating the video and updating the information to reflect the current situation.

Griffin Creek is a world-class canyoning descent near Hokitika, which draws enthusiasts from all over NZ, and overseas.

 Griffin Creek is a sustained, technical and high flow canyon, with high commitment. There are only a handful of Canyons in NZ which share these qualities, which makes Griffin nationally significant and worthy of protection. 

The online site of the Canyoning in NZ guidebook grades it as v3a5IV*** 

"...one of the longest, most varied and beautiful high-[water]volume canyons in the country"

Dan Clearwater - NZCA President and Canyoning in NZ guidebook author.

Griffin is back under threat! 18 May 20.

NZCA and FMC are outraged after DOC again attempts to enable the expansion and increased environmental impact of a hydro-electricity scheme through the backdoor of a non-notified concession variation.

It is staggering that DOC is again acting to minimize the input of the local conservation board and other stakeholders to favour the corporate interests, after an earlier similar attempt to dramatically increase water take was exposed and rejected. 

It appears the concessionaire has dreamt up a new plan to push through the hydro scheme which was previously ‘uneconomically viable’ with a new variation proposal, which would result in much more damage to surrounding forest. 

NZCA were informed late afternoon, 18th of May and given 5 working days to respond to a new variation application.  Although specifics weren’t given to the NZCA, the variation involves:

  •  re-routing the penstock pipeline through the surrounding native forest (rather than nearby private land), 
  • taking 8x the approved land (12m2 to 100m2), 
  • getting approval to cut down trees 2.5x the diameter (20cm  to 50cm).

NZCA has requested specific information about the application under the Official Information Act and requested that DOC give us reasonable time to reply after that information has been received. 

We have also reminded DOC of all the reasons why granting the scheme is not in accordance with the Law (Conservation Act) and therefore should be declined outright.

Project creep after public notification may be standard practice in other development processes, but it is not acceptable in conservation law where the primary duty is the preservation of the environment.

Such changes must be of only a “minor and technical nature”. These changes on their face suggest a  significant increase of environmental impact, and consideration of the detail – were it available – seems likely to increase this impact even more.

Sneaky companies that have an aversion to public scrutiny have no place on public conservation land.

 The proposed concession variation application has been formally withdrawn!:

FMC’s support to the NZ Canyoning Association has resulted in a stay of execution for the canyoning opportunities in Griffin Creek.
 
Although the existing concession remains in place, the concessionaire has withdrawn the variation request. The applicant claimed that the scheme was not viable without the variation. Whether that claim was just for effect (and they will still construct the smaller hydro scheme) or whether it was true (and they have to abandon the project) remains to be seen.  But for now, at worst we’ve significantly reduced the potential impact of the hydro that could be built, and at best we’ve saved Griffin completely from this hydro scheme.
 
FMC continues to monitor the situation alongside the NZ Canyoning Association.
FMC continued its efforts to support NZCA’s mission to save Griffin Creek. They continued lobbying DOC, researching the legality of the concession and making press releases on the subject. The statement below, is from FMC’s website;   https://www.fmc.org.nz/2019/03/12/griffin-creek-hydro-scheme-press-release/

FMC sent this press release to media on Monday 11, Mar 2019 to support the efforts to preserve the values of Griffin Creek.  The introductory summary is;

Federated Mountain Clubs says no further hydro development should be green-lighted for Griffin Creek, a nationally-significant canyoning site in the Westland district’s Wanganui-Otira Catchments Conservation Area.

Variation of an existing concession granted to Griffin Creek Hydro Limited (later partnered by New Zealand Energy Limited) should not be granted by the Department of Conservation, or should at least be publicly notified because:

  • it would have a severe negative impact on Griffin Creek, an exceptional canyoning site, by nearly dewatering it.
  • it would more than double the presently-allowed abstraction rate from 1,200 litres per second to 2,500 litres per second and drop the presently-allowed residual flow from 800 litres per second to 456 litres per second.
  • it would be abrasive to the Conservation Act, which obliges the Department of Conservation to manage the land for conservation purposes. The Conservation Act says the activity shouldn’t be allowed if it is already adequately provided elsewhere or could occur elsewhere with fewer negative impacts, which it is, and which it could.
  • Griffin Creek is in the Wanganui-Otira Catchments Conservation Area, which is stewardship land, public conservation land whose values have not yet been properly assessed. The land may be of sufficient value for inclusion in the adjacent Arthur’s Pass National Park.
  • It comes as part of a broader scenario of hydro development on West Coast stewardship land, a trend that FMC sees as ad hoc and opportunistic, largely unnecessary, in varying degrees harmful to conservation and recreation values, and abrasive to conservation law.

You can read the full press release, and view the FMC news article on our website.

 

Update transposed from FMC’s website; https://www.fmc.org.nz/2019/03/25/canyoning-in-griffin-creek-under-threat-by-hydro/ 

FMC is supporting the NZ Canyoning Association to attempt to save this exceptional West Coast canyon from being de-watered by a hydro scheme.

A concession and resource consent was granted to Griffin Creek Hydro Ltd in 2011 (before canyoners first explored the canyon in 2013.) Construction did not begin, and in 2015 NZ Energy Ltd partnered with the concessionaire to drive the project forward. We understand that to make the scheme viable, NZ Energy Ltd has applied to double the abstraction rate from 1200L/s to 2500L/s and have the acceptable residual flow lowered from 800L/s to 456L/s. This amount of take and residual flow would leave the canyon running at a pathetic trickle, removing all of the raw power which makes this such a special place for canyoning enthusiasts.

Griffin is a unique canyoning experience, due to the rare combination of sustained difficulty, length, accessibility and beauty. It is rated “nationally significant” in the Canyoning in NZ guidebook and is widely renown as probably in the top 3 canyons in Aotearoa.

The NZ Canyoning Association, with support from FMC, have insisted that DOC properly take into account the high recreational values of the creek.  DOC is considering whether a variation to the concession is appropriate, and the Canyoning Association maintain that it is a significant change. Therefore a whole new concession would need to be applied for. The Association also insists that any new concession is publicly notified, given the high recreational values that could be destroyed.

FMC encourages any canyoners who are not yet members of the NZ Canyoning Association to join up (it’s free!) and to visit their website to keep up to date with the progress of this issue.

Niel Silverwood has been keeping tabs on this issue on behalf of The Federated Mountain Clubs and NZCA.  He’s met briefly with NZ Energy (NZE) which is the company which has the existing concession. He’s given them information on the canyon and made sure that DOC is aware of the significance of the Griffin to Canyoneers.

DOC recently met with NZE and asked them for more information regarding the effects of the proposed increased water take and effects on recreation. This is supposedly due to be completed by December. But none of us here at the NZ Canyoning Association have been approached yet by anyone from NZE…

Neil assures us that NZE has our contact information and that the ball is firmly in their court. Once DOC has received this they will set up a meeting between DOC, FMC and the canyoning association.

What we need is for those people who have descended Griffin to send us emails/letters about how the canyoning experience would be altered if they took more than 75% of the water from the canyon.  Send your words/stories to info@nzcanyoningassociation.org

Also, make sure you have JOINED NZCA… You only need to do it once, and it’s free. So make sure you’re a member and get your canyoning buddies to join too. The more canyoners who are members, the more people we can demonstrate will be affected by this hydro scheme.

Niel Silverwood has been keeping tabs on this issue on behalf of The Federated Mountain Clubs and NZCA.  He’s met briefly with NZ Energy (NZE) which is the company which has the existing concession. He’s given them information on the canyon and made sure that DOC is aware of the significance of the Griffin to Canyoneers.

DOC recently met with NZE and asked them for more information regarding the effects of the proposed increased water take and effects on recreation. They say that they will be consulting the Canyoners, and this is supposedly due to be completed by December. But none of us here at the NZ Canyoning Association have been approached yet by anyone from NZE…

Neil assures us that NZE has our contact information and that the ball is firmly in their court. Once DOC has received this they will set up a meeting between DOC, FMC and the canyoning association.

What we need is for those people who have descended Griffin to send us emails/letters about how the canyoning experience would be altered if they took more than 75% of the water from the canyon.  Send your words/stories to info@nzcanyoningassociation.org

Also, make sure you have JOINED NZCA… You only need to do it once, and it’s free. So make sure you’re a member and get your canyoning buddies to join too. The more canyoners who are members, the more people we can demonstrate will be affected by this hydro scheme.

Justin Venable, Andy White and Richard Bramley from the NZCA have been working with Neil Silverwood who is a member of the executive of the Federated Mountain Clubs of NZ. The team is working find out more about this proposal, and what can be done to stop it.

Neil has met with Tim Shaw from DOC Hokitika, who is handling the Griffin hydro scheme concession.

Apparently, DOC issued a concession in 2011 (the canyon was first explored in 2013) for a run of the river hydro scheme with an intake below the 48m waterfall marked on the map. Last year the applicant explored the possibility of a higher intake above the gorge where the Griffin Hut track intersects the river. However, this would have involved putting a pipeline in across a large active slip so this has been dropped recently.

So the good news is at this stage the top section of the Canyon won’t be affected, the bad news is the applicant has now applied to vary the concession and put in a higher volume pipeline, following a different route and take more of the flow.

DOC is now aware that this is a classic canyon with the potential to become more popular. There was an internal DOC meeting on Tuesday about the application. They’re going to make a decision in the next few weeks whether to go with a ‘variation process’ or to start a full new process (where we would get to have a say).

DOC has also made a commitment to let FMC and NZCA know about this decision, and passed Neils contact details through to the Hydro company. Also “Regardless of the outcome of the above process, the department will be requiring the applicant to provide information on the impact of the proposed variation on canyoning.’

We’re also aware of another proposal on McCulloghs Creek, (near Whataroa on the West Coast) and NZCA Advocacy rep Annette Phillips is working with the FMC team to write a submission on that proposal. Currently, McCullogh’s doesn’t appear to have canyoning potential, but NZCA (and FMC) are concerned that the spate of Hydro being granted concessions on the West Coast’s public lands is alarming, and we want to make sure they know we’re watching very very closely.

What can you do to help? Join the NZCA (it’s FREE), share this post, encourage your mates to join, so that if/when we need your support, we’ve got a record of how many Canyoners the NZCA represent!

We need your help! Join NZCA today (it’s FREE) to add your name to the canyoners we represent to fight the Griffin Hydro Scheme.

Its been brought to our attention that Griffin Creek (v3a5IV***), near Hokitika, is under imminent threat of a hydro scheme that could potentially see this incredible canyon running at a trickle. Not to mention threaten the habitat of the Whio (Blue Duck) who live in this valley.

One of the Whio we saw during our trip

Griffin is a big water mega-classic of NZ and we just can’t let this hydro happen…

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As NZCA is affiliated to the Federated Mountain Clubs of NZ we’re asking them for support and talking to DOC and the Westland Regional Council. But to give our arguments and pleas weight, we need members. The more people we represent, the louder our voice is when protecting these places we cherish. So we need you to JOIN (it’s free)

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This is one of the major reasons NZCA was established; to PROTECT the canyoning environments and opportunities we value so much.