8. Historic, scenic, natural and wild characteristics

This section has section eight of the New Zealand Fish and Game Council and the Otago Fish and Game Council application to amend the Water Conservation (Kawarau) River) Order.

Historic Values

8.1  Fish and Game seek to protect historic sites within the valley that contribute to the unique character of the landscape and for part of the recreational setting for anglers and other recreational users.

8.2  New evidence (Hamel 1994 – Appendix 7 and LINZ 2004 – Appendix 8) is now available on the historic values of the lower Nevis goldfields which was not available at the time of the original conservation order hearing.  This documents the numerous historic sites in the Nevis valley relating to gold mining, pastoral farming and Maori occupation.  Townships were established at two sites in the gold mining era, one at the Nevis Crossing, on both sides of the river, and one (Nevis Township) on the road further upstream where ruins and several intact buildings remain.  Ponds and tailings left by hydraulic elevating and dredging stretch along the whole river flats from the Crossing to Nevis Township.

8.3  A moa hunter site has been recorded at the mouth of Schoolhouse Creek but it has been heavily modified by later human activities, particularly mining.

8.4  The Nevis goldfields have been described as the most intact goldfields landscape in Otago (Hamel 1994).  The diversity of alluvial gold mining sites in the area around Nevis Township and the Crossing, along with the lack of modification since that time and the visibility and accessibility of the area combine to make the gold field a site of national importance (LINZ 2004).

Angler fishing the Nevis
Photo 3.  Low gradient reach of the Nevis River showing Nevis
Crossing in the foreground.

Landscape values

8.5  Fish and Game seek to protect the outstanding scenic and historic landscape in the valley upstream of Nevis Crossing and characterised by a free-flowing river in its natural state through a distinctive setting which includes historic mine workings and settlement ruins.

8.6  Fish and Game seek to protect the outstanding wild and scenic landscape in the valley downstream of Nevis Crossing and characterised by a free-flowing river in a rugged gorge setting with limited human intrusion and challenging access. New evidence (Petrie 2006, attached as Appendix 9) concludes that the Lower Nevis has outstanding scenic values not recognised by the original conservation order.

8.7  The river is a major physical feature running through the valley which provides important linkage through the diverse natural and historic/cultural characteristics of the landscape (DoC undated)

8.8  New evidence establishes there are outstanding natural characteristics in addition to the values the Order currently recognises, needing protection.

8.9  The Special tribunal determined that the upper Nevis (above Nevis Crossing) had outstanding scenic characteristics and that the lower river had outstanding wild characteristics down through the gorge section.  This distinction is questionable in the light of new evidence showing the lower river also has outstanding scenic characteristics.  More properly the values to be protected should be defined as scenic in the upper river and wild and scenic in the river below Nevis Crossing.

8.10  Since the Special Tribunal decision in 1993 there has been considerable resource assessment and planning in the conservation and recreation areas by both Fish and Game and Department of Conservation.  Both organisations now have approved statutory plans in place developed through public processes defined in the Conservation Act 1987.  These plans - The Sports Fish and Game Management Plan (SFGMP) for Otago (approved April 2003) and the Conservation Management Strategy (CMS) for Otago (December 1996) both add considerably in identifying values within the Nevis valley and in providing a policy framework for the management of those values

8.11  The Conservation Resources Report for the Ben Nevis pastoral lease (LINZ 2004) describes landscape values of the whole Nevis valley in some detail.  It describes the valley as having important open space characteristics and notes that the landscape is threatened by hydroelectric development amongst other things.  This is confirmed by Petrie (2006) who states that any form of development in such a scenically valued landscape would be both visually intrusive and considered an environmental misfit.

8.12  The LINZ report describes incised streams as being prominent in the landscape below Nevis Crossing with the Nevis Gorge being described as a significant landscape feature.  It concludes that the Nevis Valley in its entirety has landscape values of national significance noting the homogenous dominant gold tussock cover, a distinctive, highly diverse and visible landform  with cultural influences from mining and pastoralism.  Those factors together with the enclosed remote and relatively isolated nature of the valley are considered to contribute to a landscape that is visually memorable.

Remaining Example of a Free- flowing River

Angler fishing the Nevis
Photo 4.  Lower Nevis Gorge

8.13  Fish and Game seek to protect the Nevis River as the last remaining example of a Central Otago river in its unmodified state because of its rarity.  The river is an important landscape feature linking other landforms within the valley. The Nevis is the only river of any consequence in Central Otago District that flows throughout its entire length in its natural state without the adverse effects of damming, channel modification, flow regulation or fluctuation, major abstraction or discharge.  This characteristic alone is an outstanding feature.

8.14  The Nevis valley is largely unmodified apart from pasture development for extensive sheep and cattle farming, associated farm buildings, evidence of historic mine workings and habitation from the gold rush era. These historic features – mine tailings, sluicings, building foundations, water races, and a graveyard add considerably to the setting for visitors and recreational users. The resident population in the valley is less than 5 people.

8.15  Although the river has been mined in the past it shows no particular lasting changes from that period in its history apart from riverside mine tailings. More recent mining has been confined to tributaries including Schoolhouse Creek and Drummond Creek and have not impacted on the mainstem river and angling setting.  Geomorphological processes have restored any channel damage that occurred historically.  There are no mainstem dams, diversions, and no major takes or discharges.  

Hydro Development and Impacts on Other Values

8.16  A hydro scheme on the Nevis River would seriously impact on the valley upstream of Nevis Crossing through the inundation of a river reach with important landscape, open space and historic values. These are key components of the recreational setting for all visitors to the valley

8.17  The major concentration of historic sites from the gold mining era between Nevis township and The Crossing will be flooded.  This, in a gold field which is considered amongst the most intact in New Zealand

8.18  Below the Nevis Crossing the landscape and river modification effects would also be severe with the construction of two dams, road development for heavy machinery in areas where roading is not present, inundation of recreationally and scenically important gorge reaches of the river, dewatering or significant flow reduction in significant gorge reaches below the second dam and further road development for powerhouse and penstock construction.

8.19  Biogeographically important native fish sub-populations and plant habitats will be lost through inundation