A campaign to allow river users to give feedback on a proposed commercial rafting business has been launched.
Mataura man Phill Joostens submitted a resource consent to the Gore and Southland district councils earlier this year to start a rafting business on the Mataura River, and is awaiting approval.
Professional fishing guide Casey Cravens, of Dunedin, has started a petition calling for the resource consent before the councils to be notifiable.
This would mean the public could have their say on the consent.
Mr Cravens said it was important a public hearing was held to talk about the proposed plan.
“There are 40,000 river users who have not been heard and the idea that the dominant stakeholder group on that river is not affected is insane and undemocratic,” Mr Cravens said.
For the past 16 years Mr Cravens had been a guide on the Mataura River, basing himself at Riversdale during the fishing season.
“The proposal to guide over 16K anglers a year on inflatable rafts on Southland rivers threatens the world’s finest dry-fly fishing for wild brown trout,” Mr Cravens said in the online petition.
He believed it was important to keep rafts off the river because they would disturb the brown trout as they were feeding and cause them to hide.
Research showed if the trout were disturbed they were hard to catch.
“You have to build into the management of your fisheries days where the fish are left alone or they will hide and lose weight and not reproduce as effectively.”
People who were not anglers might not understand how important it was to preserve the river as a fishery and keep users whose activities might disrupt the fishing off the river.
“If you don’t fish it sounds like we’re being greedy.”
He believed the 40,000 anglers who fished in the river were opposed to the rafting business.
“I defy you to find anybody in the fishing clubs or go down to the river during the fishing season, find anybody who supports this other than the applicant.
“It’s a smash and grab application.”
Gore fisherman Geordie Milne said he had been fishing for over 60 years on Southland rivers.
“You see all sorts of things coming down the river and it is a nonsense to say that a raft is going to spoil the fishing .. it’s just people being greedy and trying to control the river for themselves.
“The river’s there for everybody,” Mr Milne said.
His experience did not support the belief the trout were easily spooked.
“You can have three people all going up the river one behind the other, so 100 yards between them, and they’re all catching fish.”
The trout might move to one side when disturbed but soon returned to feeding.
“When the hatch of flies is on, nothing will stop that fish feeding.”
The 76-year-old spent many hours fishing on the river.
“Most days you can fish this river and never see another fisherman.”
Mr Joostens said he was disappointed overseas anglers were having input into the petition.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow, including a lot of these overseas ones.
“What gives them the right to have some input into what we do in our own country?” he said.
He had been working closely with Southland Fish & Game.
“They’ve been very good to deal with.”
Wyndham Angling Club secretary Alan Leitch said in a letter to the editor the club represented the group who had worked to secure the National Water Conservation Order for the Mataura River and tributaries.
“So it shouldn’t be a surprise that we would like some input by way of a publicly notified consent process when some new activity on the river is mooted,” Mr Leitch said.
“If any activity can stand public scrutiny, so be it; at least the process is transparent and not conducted by a select few behind closed doors.”
Southland District Council resource management team leader Marcus Roy said the council was still working through the process with the applicant.
“The applicant is aware of the interest in his application and is seeking to ensure his proposal only has a minor effect on the environment.
“At this stage, no decision has been made to notify the application,” Mr Roy said.
Gore District Council planning manager Dean Balkin said the application for resource consent for the rafting business was being considered in accordance with the statutory process and that process was continuing.
The Resource Management Act requirements for notification were specific.
“This is a statutory test– we have to follow what the law says,” Mr Balkin said.
- By 1pm Thursday, 1225 people had signed the petition.
The Gore Disrict Council has received an application for resource consent to operate a commercial rafting activity on the Mataura River. This proposal is made up of three defined excursions.
- The busiest of these proposes a maximum of three rafts on two trips per day, up to five days a week.
- The number of rafts per excursion, number of excursions a day and the days of operation varies.
- The maximum daily number of persons per excursion proposed is 36 people plus three guides for one excursion.
- A second excursion would take 18 people plus one guide.
- The third excursion is for 12 people plus two guides.
- One of the three excursions starts in the Gore district and ends in the Southland district.