3. The Nevis River

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

3.1  The Nevis River is situated in Central Otago and forms part of the Clutha River Catchment (see Map 1.) It flows approximately 50 kilometres in a north north-easterly direction from its source at the southern end of the Hector and Garvie Ranges to its confluence with the Kawarau River (see Map 2.). The upper reaches flow in an open but steep sided valley between the source and the Whittens Creek confluence. The river then flows for 9 km through a confined gorge to open out into a broader valley below Nevis Township. A further 10 kilometres downstream at Nevis Crossing the river becomes more rugged and entrenched for 2 km until it enters a steeply incised gorge in which it flows approximately 13 kilometres to its confluence with the Kawarau River.

Nevis River image
Nevis River

3.2  The river is a single thread throughout its length with the river gradient being shallower and the river having a more meandering character in the open valley sections. The valley floor is 800 metres above sea level in the upper reaches and the river falls some 500 vertical metres to the Kawarau confluence.

3.3  The main tributaries – Drummond Creek, Whittens Creek, Schoolhouse Creek, Coal Creek, Nevis Burn, Potters Creek and Doolans Creek do not contribute significantly to angling amenity but provide important trout spawning and rearing areas which complement main stem spawning and rearing grounds.

3.4  The mean flow at the Nevis Burn confluence is 10.5m3/s (East Harbour Management Services 2004) rising to 17.8m3/s at the Wentworth Station flow gauge near the river mouth. River flows measured at Wentworth Station near the confluence typically range up to 60 m3/s during floods and down to summer flows of 6-7 m3/s. The mean annual low flow (MALF) is 5.1 m3/s and the lowest recorded flow is 2.9 m3/s.

Table 1. Nevis River Dominant and Extreme Flows (Source NIWA)

Site: Wentworth Cumecs
Mean flow 17.8
Median flow 12.3
Minimum flow 2.9
Mean annual low flow 5.1
Highest flow 954

3.5  The total allocated take of surface water within the catchment is 1.237m3/s with 78% (973.3 l/s) being taken in the catchment above Nevis Crossing and one large take (263.9 l/s) in the lower reaches (Appendix 5)

3.6  The landscape is highly scenic and largely unmodified tussock grasslands apart from historic mine sites mostly adjacent to the main stem between Drummond Creek and Nevis Crossing. Mining activity occurred in the valley from the late 1800s until about the 1930s. The Nevis Valley is considered to be a supreme example of a little modified and virtually treeless Central Otago landscape and is said to be the most intact goldfields landscape remaining in Otago (DoC 1996).

3.7  The Nevis valley has important conservation and recreation values. Conservation values include historic sites, botanical and landscape values and native fish habitat values. The River and its tributaries provide a productive and diverse habitat for sports fish throughout all life stages. The natural variability in the main stem of the river provides a spectrum of angling opportunity from readily accessible and easily fishable water to challenging angling in the rugged and remote gorge area. The key features of the fishing experience include trophy sized trout, low angling pressure, unmodified and highly scenic backcountry setting. The river below Nevis Crossing is recognised as having outstanding values for recreational kayaking.

3.8  Land tenure is Crown pastoral lease and the dominant land use is extensive sheep and cattle grazing. Three pastoral leases in the lower valley – Ben Nevis, Craigroy and Carrick - are presently going through tenure review under the provisions of the Crown Pastoral Lands Act. Tenure review involves the identification of significant inherent values of the land, the establishment of Crown reserves where inherent values are high and the offering of freehold title over areas with predominantly farming values.

3.9  There has been some recent mining in tributary streams in the last 15 years but sites have been generally well managed and carefully restored. There is some ecotourism activity in the valley and the road through the Nevis is a popular route for mountain bikers and 4WD outings.