“A Landmark Project”
The Parkway Project continues to be recognised as a “landmark project for New Zealand”. This is how John Acland, Chairperson of the Government’s new Access Panel, described it when he attended a project management meeting in December. He updated the Project Team on the work of the Access Panel, and praised the Parkway Project for its visionary approach to a range of river corridor issues.
Project Work Update
Much of the foundation work for the Parkway has been completed, including the first phase of the Landscape Study, and the first river community consultation round conducted in Wanaka, Cromwell, Alexandra, Roxburgh, Beaumont and Balclutha. The consultation revealed 86% public support for the project.
The Parkway Project Plan has recently been revised, giving priority to a number of key project tasks, including:
- Defining the extent of the river corridor. The width of the corridor varies according to the “view-shed” on each side of the river, as seen from river level. In places, the width of the riverside “view-shed” may be hundreds of metres, while in other places it may only be as wide as the existing Marginal Strip (Queen’s Chain). This “view-shed” is considered the minimum critical area required to maintain the inherent values of the corridor.
- Defining a Draft Parkway Trail route. Some trails along the corridor already exist, and some river communities have identified their preferred routes for linkages. The Parkway Trail is considered particularly important because of the assurance it would provide for long-term public access, and because of the significant potential for economic benefits within the river communities. It would be linked with the Rail Trail.
- An Economic Benefits Study. This study will provide an assessment of the likely economic benefits stemming from the Parkway Trail, with an analysis of likely trail users and their needs. A Recreation Study is also planned. Many people believe that there is real potential for on-going and increasing economic benefits along the Parkway.
These studies will be followed by further landowner and community consultation, resource management studies, an ‘Establishment Plan’ and a ‘Parkway Management Plan’.
The CODC Rural Study
The Central Otago District Council is currently undertaking a Rural Landscape Study, prior to public consultation and District Plan updates. The timing of the CODC Rural Study is remarkably fortunate and Parkway project team members have already met with those involved in this work. And since the study includes the Clutha Mata-Au riverscape we will contribute our draft corridor, so that the “Parkway” can be considered in this update process. The CODC have recognised the exciting potential of the Parkway project from the outset and continue to provide valuable in-kind support.
A further $100,000 grant from the Central Lakes Trust was approved last October, earmarked for a number of project tasks over the first half of this year. The Sustainable Management Fund - following a pre-application, has also invited us to make a Stage Two SMF application, which we are currently preparing. Although both these funders have been very supportive, we recognize the need to expand our funding base, and to this end we have identified a number of important potential funding organizations, and have made very positive preliminary approaches that we will follow up during the year.
The appearance of Didymosphenia Algae in the Clutha Mata-Au has been most unfortunate. Reports indicate that the Algae may have been present in the Hawea River for as long as two years, and present in the Clutha for one year. Low Spring flows and unusually high sunshine hours in late Spring and early Summer appear to have triggered a vigorous growth phase, resulting in large quantities of algal “bloom” breaking off and drifting down the river from about mid-December to mid-January. The amount of bloom has now significantly decreased, with bloom settling and slowly decaying. However, there remains a serious threat of repeated blooming and algae spread to other rivers.
Our Parkway website has been updated, with revised PDF documents, a new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, and additional gallery photos added. The PDF documents provide a detailed project description. The FAQ’s cover numerous questions raised at public meetings, while the gallery provides some spectacular images of the Clutha Mata-Au corridor, including photos of some sections that few people see.
Articles about the Clutha Mata-Au River Parkway continue to appear in local, national and overseas papers. Two US papers with massive circulations, the Boston Globe and the Philadelphia Enquirer, have published features highlighting conservation and tourism issues along the Clutha Mata-Au River. The Parkway project appears to attract equal national and international interest. A Belgium TV film crew recently recorded an interview about the project on the banks of the Clutha Mata-Au that will be seen by approximately a million people in Europe.