Independent Commissioner, Special Tribunal for the Ngaruroro and Clive Rivers

Streamlined Environmental’s Director and Aquatic Ecologist Dr Ngaire Phillips was appointed as an independent commissioner and sole Science Expert member (ecology, water quality) of a Special Tribunal which considered an application under the Resource Management Act for a Water Conservation Order (WCO) on the Ngaruroro and Clive Rivers, Hawke’s Bay. A WCO is a tool to recognise and protect the existing outstanding or intrinsic characteristics of New Zealand’s most exceptional rivers and lakes. The application was made by multiple parties covering conservation, recreation and iwi interests and attracted more than 700 submissions. The competing demands for limited water resources and differences in perspective on the values that the rivers offer presented significant challenges for the Special Tribunal in providing a recommendation to the Minister.

Over an 18 month period, the panel heard from a range of experts and submitters during a truncated hearing process, reviewed 100s of documents and undertook a reconnaissance of the river from the sea mouth to the headwaters as part of their assessment process. The extended duration of the process was in part to allow for the progression of the TANK plan change process by the Hawkes Bay Regional Council.

The culmination of the Tribunal’s assessment and deliberations was the production of a 72 page recommendation report in August 2019. The final recommendation was for a WCO to be applied to the upper Ngaruroro River (above the Whanawhana cableway to the headwaters), but not to the lower Ngaruroro River or the Clive River. The Special Tribunal considered that the habitat for rainbow trout, the rainbow trout fishery, the angling and recreation amenity, the whitewater kayaking and rafting amenity and the wild and scenic and other natural characteristics are outstanding values that warrant this high level of protection. Consequently, some prohibitions and conditions on what can and cannot be done in that part of the river in order to protect those values were also recommended. Appeals to recommendations made by the Special Tribunal are currently underway.