Monday, May 18, 2009

The Nevis - just like the Clutha, another wild river at risk

In my last two posts I've written about the threat of four new dams, and published landscape photos of the Clutha River. While I gather steam on this one I'd like to draw your attention to yet another proposed travesty of our wild rivers and places. The nearby Nevis Valley - one of my favourite haunts.

Looking across to the backside of the Remarkables Mountains from the Duffers Saddle - the spectacular mountain range that Queenstown sits underneath of...

The first use of the Nevis Valley was as a trail route for the Maori. When the gold rush arrived in the 1860s, two small settlements appeared in the lower Nevis. Now only the family at Ben Nevis Station occupies the valley.

Due to the remoteness of the valley, miners' workings have been left largely untouched and now provide an excellent representation of an original goldfield. These remains include everything from the cemetery and settlement buildings through to a woolshed and the first ski hut.... more>>

Apart from outstanding and unique landscapes, remoteness verging on wilderness, and historic examples of the gold era, the river itself is cherished by trout fisherman...

The river valley is subject of New Zealand's Tenure Review process and in this instance it seems to be flawed... more>>

It becomes even more remote in winter...

Gold dredges left modest pools of water behind...

And the landscape was compromised years ago - back when it was thought OK to plunder the resources leaving a mess behind...

In our quest for energy we're not alone. It'll become the currency of this world we live in, but it seems pathetic to flood our heritage and landscapes for what in the case of the Nevis is a very small generating capacity. Instead we have to embrace technology and think in new ways e.g. Auckland has to be the place in New Zealand that has one of the highest energy needs so it seems it is time to harness the energy in the tidal differences between east and west coasts on-site, so power is not lost through transmission line loss.

The old miners in the Nevis knew about wind energy [vexing as it is these days of huge examples also cluttering up unique landscapes] - these are 40 gal. drums cut in half and arranged on a shaft to capture the wind. This example still turns squeakily...

The local newspaper the Otago Daily Times has published two articles if you wish to read further. Article 1, Article 2

Those of us who have the foresight to see beyond the dead water of artificial lakes need to spread awareness!

Note: Phil Lloyd commented on posts relating to the Nevis Valley and gold mining, and has since been in touch via email. Here is his story:

"I spent two summer holidays in the 1970's with Lex Maclean and his parents working a goldmine just after the gorge in the upper Nevis. His parents were quite elderly even then and had moved to Milton after the population in the Nevis had dwindled away but they still came back to work the mine each summer.

I met up with Lex in Clyde last winter and he said they have no photos of those days, despite having many travellers call in and take photos.

I undertook to try to track down some of those photos but have had no luck so far."

If you can help Phil please contact him:

+64 9 573 0421 or

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Blogger Ruahines said...

Kia ora Donald,
The power companies have shown their true colours this week, as we find they ripped each man, woman, and child off over the past 6 years to the tune of over 4 billion dollars! So we are pretty naive to buy into their media spin of "concern" for the environment and "sustainability for future generations". It is all about money and return to share holders. Thank you for being a voice. If we let them continue bull shitting the public we will end up with no Wild Places left. Rave on!

May 22, 2009 at 11:24 AM  
Blogger Donald said...

Indeed Robb! What is also interesting is the surplus of power currently in the South Island: As far as I can tell it cannot be sent to the North Island as both Pole 1 and Pole 2 of the Cook Strait cable fail in this capacity. So we have essentially a commodity that is valueless, while goodness knows what resources get dragooned into action in the North Island to generate power.

... makes me wonder two things:

1] why is the media so quiet on this?

2] what failures in maintenance or otherwise have occurred?


May 31, 2009 at 2:52 PM  

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