The following are Frequently Asked Questions. Many of these are from Public Meetings held in Wanaka, Cromwell, Alexandra, Roxburgh, Beaumont and Balclutha in June and July 2005.
Q. Is there a Queen’s Chain along the entire length of the River?
A. Much of the river has a Queen’s Chain, officially called a Marginal Strip and administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC). It is a minimum width of 20 metres, but in some places it is up to 100 metres wide. However, there are significant sections designated as Esplanade Strips, Operating Easements etc, so there is not a consistent minimum corridor. Even if there were, it would not be wide enough to protect the values of the river corridor. For that, a buffer zone a little broader than the Marginal Strip is required. This would be the ‘Parkway’.
Q. Are you looking at both the upper and lower river?
A. Yes, definitely – it is important to bring all the river communities together and to look at the river as a whole.
Q. What about the tributaries, such as the Hawea and the Kawarau – are they included in the project?
A. In the long-term we would like to include the tributaries, since the health of the waterway depends largely on them also, however it is already a huge task focusing on the Clutha Mata-Au corridor – more would be too complex at this early stage.
Q. What about funding?
A. Project funding to date has come from the Ministry for the Environment through the Sustainable Management Fund and from the Central Lakes Trust. Others funding organisations have shown an interest. We will pursue on-going funding from a variety of sources.
Q. Is national recognition of the project going to be a key to its success?
A. The Clutha Mata-Au is a national treasure because of its many unique qualities, and of course it is an Otago icon. It follows that this project is both regionally and nationally important. One of the keys to success is having Government support through the Ministry for the Environment, combined with support from Councils. This support is obviously important, and yet the real key to success comes from the grass-root support we are receiving from the people and communities along the river, because this is what provides a mandate for the upper level support. It is also important that the project is driven by the people, and not from the top. This gives the project, and the Parkway, community ownership – the key to success in the long-term.
Q. What are GHD doing?
A. GHD is managing this project. They are an international multi-disciplinary consultancy ranked in the top 50 in the world, and we are very pleased to have them managing every stage of this project. We are also very fortunate to have Bob Penter as our Project Manager. He has worked very successfully on projects with Ngai Tahu and the Department of Conservation (DOC). He and his team are co-ordinating and driving tasks to meet project milestones, making excellent progress so far.
Q. Establishing a Parkway along the river corridor would require some legislative tools – has the Steering Group decided on what tools to use?
A. There are a range of river corridor tools being investigated by GHD, including Esplanade Strips, covenants, Plan Amendments/Variations, and others. There are different Parkway mechanisms and management models that require more study.
Q. Will there need to be Plan changes?
A. Possibly. In recent years it has become obvious that the river corridor is not zoned effectively and appropriately given that the river is an outstanding natural feature, and given that the corridor is an inherent part of this. But Plan changes are just one option.
Q. What about the management of the Parkway once it is set up?
A. We currently have a Steering Group with most of the stakeholders represented. We need to expand this group to include all the stakeholders, since we would then have the foundation a Parkway Management Body. This Body could have a statutory governmental core of local authorities etc, and would ideally include representatives from non-governmental stakeholder organisations. The RMA provides for such a statutory body in a situation like this. But this is just one management model.
Q. Who will maintain the Parkway and how will it be funded?
A. The Parkway Body would administer a Parkway Management Plan, basically co-ordinating all current river corridor expenditure and sourcing funding for specific projects such as trails, noxious species control, ecological restoration, education programmes involving schools etc. On-going maintenance for new amenities such as trails would have to be planned for from the outset of such projects. We appreciate that the Parkway Management Plan would need to be specific and very well managed, with a sound improvement, maintenance and funding strategy.
Q. Will the Parkway Body manage land along the river, or have more of an advocacy role?
A. Land within the river corridor consists of both government land such as Marginal Strips and Esplanade Reserves, and privately owned land. The privately owned land could only be managed by the Parkway Body in a statutory sense just as other privately owned land is. The more we can work with private landowners, respecting their rights and land management priorities, the more we can achieve. For this reason the Parkway Body would also have an important advocacy role.
Q. There are already lots of developments. – Is it too late?
A. This is a concern – over-development is happening already in some places. We are seeing significant negative impacts on natural and recreational values. We need to work quickly and carefully now to minimise on-going impacts. If necessary we can look at restoration work in the long term. Overseas river restoration is big business because higher populations mean higher amenity values.
Q. How much public access to the river has been lost?
A. A Fish and Game study has revealed that 30-50% has been lost, including informal, farmer permitted access. Note that we don’t need lots of access points, but we need it in appropriate places at intervals along the river corridor, and preferably not over farmland.
Q. Are there urgent issues that need to be dealt with?
A. We recognise that there are hotspots and will keep this in mind when determining our action plans and strategies. For example, there is more development pressure in the Upper Clutha, so there is some urgency there. However, in a management sense, and for many other reasons, it is important to include the entire waterway in our planning.
Q. What has been the reaction of the District Councils?
A. The Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) and the Central Otago District Council (CODC) are very supportive. The Clutha District Council (CDC) is neutral though open to the development opportunities that the Parkway offers. The Otago Regional Council (ORC) is monitoring our progress and we’re keeping them informed. This is a cautious position and quite appropriate in this case, since we believe this project should not be a top down exercise, but rather one that is growing and being driven from the community level.
Q. Will the Parkway corridor be within the Visual Amenity Landscape (VAL) defined by QLDC?
A. The VAL provides a good indication of where the corridor is, but we have not yet defined the corridor exactly. The Landscape Study will do this.
Q. Has there been any input from Ngai Tahu?
A. They have advised us that our vision for the Mata-Au is in keeping with theirs, paralleling many of their objectives. They have yet to join the Steering Group as a key stakeholder, but we are maintaining contact with them.
Q. Is the Parkway Trail, from Lake Wanaka to the Pacific, feasible?
A. Yes, everyone seems to agree that it can be done. There are certainly some difficult sections, but there are also many route options. Some parts of the trail are of course already in place, such as the Clyde to Doctor’s Point section, and the Millers Flat to Beaumont section. It will take a long time to connect the trails, but the important thing is to have the overall vision and gradually work towards it. We need to think ahead.
Q. What side of the river will the trail be – it is shown as the west side on the project website?
A. In the Upper Clutha section, the west side appears to be favoured. The Department of Conservation (DOC) has a plan to construct a trail on the west side from Alberttown to Luggate. Beyond that we will require more information. In the Upper Clutha the Trail appears to mostly suit the true right, though the Maori Gorge has a good gold-dredge trail on the left, and in the Lower Clutha it appears that the true left is mostly appropriate. The Landscape Study currently underway, and the heritage, ecological and recreation studies, together with community input, will all help decide the Parkway Trail route.
Q. Do you think the Parkway Trail has the same potential as the Rail Trail?
A. Absolutely. The Parkway Trail is often compared to the Rail Trail, and as we have seen, the Rail Trail has succeeded beyond all expectations. The Parkway Trail would definitely increase the flow of people along the river corridor and through the river towns, and they would require accommodation and services. This flow of people would also boost eco and heritage tourism options. The potential benefits for the river communities are very significant in the medium to long-term.
Q. The Rail Trail is different because it has more existing pubs, accommodation venues etc, so is this a disadvantage?
A. It’s certainly more difficult in this regard, but this also means that there is more potential for the development of services such as accommodation, possibly on private land along the river corridor where there are vineyards, farms and orchards, and the tourism potential with new activities especially associated with the Clutha Mata-Au’s gold-mining heritage is immense. As the Parkway Trail grows, a service network would grow with it.
Q. Much of the west bank of the Upper Clutha is owned by Contact Energy – are they involved and actively supportive of the project?
A. They are supportive of the project in principle and are involved in the process via the Steering Group, but they cannot exclude future dams on the river. They want to be seen as a good custodian and manager of the river land they hold operating easements over.
Q. There are many vineyards on the east bank of the Upper Clutha. The most profitable part of the wine business is cellar door sales – perhaps there is great potential to combine this with the Parkway Trail?
A. This is certainly the kind of spin-off that the Trail will gradually bring with it, together with opportunities for further accommodation, tourism etc.
Q. Water extraction is important for the rural community. Is it a large problem for the river?
A. As everyone is discovering, water is becoming an ever-more precious resource. Increasing extraction is a concern. There is a critical threshold when over extraction leads to negative impacts but we need more information to determine when this would occur.
Q. What about the willow problem?
A. The willow issue appears urgent. They propagate very quickly as we are seeing in the Rongahere Gorge. Ecological restoration will be part of the future Parkway Management Plan (e.g. in the Rongahere). Wilding pines are also an issue, as are other invasive species.
Q. In recent times we have seen the Upper Clutha River go from pristine to dubious at best. Water quality must be a concern. What will the Parkway project do about this?
A. The health of the waterway is obviously important to us. Fortunately, the Otago Regional Council Plan: Water, addresses this issue, and we are now seeing positive moves to improve water quality. For example, an alternative plan for Wanaka wastewater is now advancing, and a programme to fence stock away from the waterway has made great progress. We see the ORC Water Plan, as it relates specifically to the Clutha Mata-Au, as a key component of the Parkway Management Plan.
Q. Fish and Game have three key issues for the river:
» Public access.
» Habitat values – trout, waterfowl.
» Recreational setting – important that development is kept back from river.
Will these objectives be consistent with the Parkway Management Plan?
A. Yes, our objectives are very well aligned. The Fish and Game Council is an important stakeholder in this project with much expertise to offer.
Q. What role does the Department of Conservation (DOC) have in the project? Would they be part of the Parkway Management Body?
A. DOC is on the Steering Group and most supportive. They long ago determined that this project is consistent with the Otago Conservation Strategy 1998. And yes, they would be part of the Parkway Management Body - they administer the Marginal Strip and have significant trail, ecological and heritage expertise.
Q. Is Federated Farmers involved?
A. We have consulted with them and have been working with some of their members but they are not yet formally involved. We think it’s important to acknowledge that the farming community have traditionally managed and cared for the river corridor very well, maintaining the open spaces along the river corridor that we value and often providing generous public access. The loss of these open spaces is one of our main concerns. The more we can assist and work with the farming community, the better it is for the river corridor, and therefore we recognise the importance of consultation with farmers and landowners generally.
Q. How do you see the relationship between the landowners and the project?
A. Really, the landowners are the key to advancing the project, which is why we have been working on a landowner database and consulting with them as soon as possible. This is an on-going process. There are many issues facing the landowners along the river, and we see this project as a vehicle to provide certainty and assistance. Access, for example, is a topical issue, and we would like landowners themselves to define where and how they would provide public access, if at all.
Q. What is your relationship with Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)?
A. We have included LINZ from the outset, since they are a very important governmental stakeholder, however they are not yet formally involved.
Q. Is the Steering Groups involved in consenting issues, such as sub-division, hydro-electricity and water extraction etc?
A. We have not been involved in river corridor consenting issues so far, preferring to leave that to the territorial authorities, though GHD has an advocacy role that may be required in the future.
Q. There seem to be two time frames; short-term goals and long-terms goals?
A. Agreed. In the short term we have to determine what we have by undertaking river corridor studies and by consulting with landowners and the river communities. This foundation work gives us the ability to move forward together with a long-term vision of what we want to achieve.
Q. One of the keys to long-term success will be involving schools and children in the Parkway, with projects and scholarships etc. Will you get children involved?
A. Yes, we see this as essential. We would like to co-operate with the Tiaeri Trust who have put together a waterways education kit. We envisage schools along the entire corridor linked up and working on various projects, some of which like ecological restoration would be on-going. In this way, children would grow up with a sense of ownership.
Q. Are you going to identify cultural and heritage sites, etc?
A. We’re planning a Heritage Study that will do this. Also, we’re in the process of identifying all existing databases and resources and collating a range of information that will contribute to the Parkway Management Plan.
Q. What is the project timeframe?
A. We have scheduled the project for three years, at which time we should either have started establishing the Parkway, or will have a clear establishment strategy.
Q. Has anyone discussed freedom camping?
A. We would like to see a range of options for the recreational users of the Parkway, including camping in managed locations, similar to sites managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC). Accommodation options would probably also include Bed and Breakfasts, etc. in suitable locations, especially near towns or access ways.