Wild Rivers park2021-04-16T12:03:02+13:00

Wild Rivers park

The Wild Rivers park campaign, launched in April 2020, seeks to give formal protection status to the wild rivers on the West Coast of the South Island. The vast majority of this land is currently Stewardship Land (see map below), which means it is public conservation land without formal protection, that is still waiting to have its values assessed by the Department of Conservation. This campaign thus ties in with FMC’s long-standing Forgotten Lands Campaign.

Wild Rivers park map. Click on map to enlarge

Wild Rivers park map. Click on map to enlarge

Why a Wild Rivers park?

The extraction of water from rivers for the purpose of irrigation or hydroelectric use brings alterations to the landscape (construction of dams, canals, penstocks, access roads, etc.), to the ecology of a river (reduced flow, obstacles affecting movement of species, fast flowing rivers turned into reservoirs) and its recreational opportunities (reduced flow, flooding of canyons or river runs by reservoirs, artificial obstacles on river runs). Many of New Zealand’s largest rivers have been modified by large structures and water extraction schemes. These include the Clutha, Waitaki and Waiau rivers in the South Island, the Waikato and Whanganui Rivers in the North Island. Environmental campaigns in the 1970s and 1980s (e.g. Save Manapouri; Motu River) brought the concept of wild and scenic rivers to the forefront. The Motu River in the North Island was the first river in the country to be protected by a Water Conservation Order (WCO) in 1984. Fifteen rivers countrywide are protected by WCOs today. An article on Wild Rivers and Water Conservation Orders was published in the FMC Bulletin, March 2009.

While several rivers in NZ are heavily modified, the concept of wild rivers does not even exist in Central and Southern Europe, where all rivers have been altered by the construction of dams and canals or by large flood protection schemes. Other famous examples overseas include the Colorado River, which runs dry well before reaching the ocean. The West Coast of the South Island conversely is home to a large number of pristine rivers, all of which have significant landscape, conservation and recreation values.

These rivers, however, are not immune from threats. The Waitaha River for instance was targeted for the development of a hydro scheme. While the proposal was declined by the Minister for the Environment in 2019, the river isn’t really safe while it lacks formal conservation status. Concessions for the development of hydro schemes were granted for Griffin Creek, which offers great canyoning opportunities, and McCullough’s Creek.

Kayaker on the Wanganui River. Photo (c) Danilo Hegg

Kayaker on the Wanganui River. Photo (c) Danilo Hegg

Recreational opportunities in a Wild Rivers park

The rivers listed below would be included in a Wild Rivers park. Click on the hyperlinked river names to learn about some of the paddling opportunities offered by each river. Tramping and mountaineering opportunities in the area are also abundant. Refer to Moir’s Guide North for tramping routes south of the glaciers, and to the Canterbury Westland Alps guidebook published by the New Zealand Alpine Club for routes north of the glaciers.

Taipo River
Griffin Creek
Mikonui River
Waitaha River
Hokitika catchment – Toaroha River, Kokatahi River, Whitcombe River, Mungo River, Cropp River, Price River, Wilkinson River
Kakapotahi River
Wanganui River catchment – Adams River, Lambert River
Poerua River
Whataroa River catchment – Perth River, Barlow River, Butler River
Makawhio River
Mahitahi River
Paringa River – Otoko River, including The Valley of Darkness
Moeraki River
Waita River
Whakapohai River
MacFarlane River
Haast and Landsborough Rivers catchment – Clarke River, Thomas River

Morgan Gorge hot springs, Waitaha River. Photo (c) Neil Silverwood

Morgan Gorge hot springs, Waitaha River. Photo (c) Neil Silverwood

What can you do?

Spread the word about the campaign on social media.

What is special to you about the places considered by this proposal? What stories need to be told? How would a Wild Rivers park benefit your community? Talk to your friends and neighbours about what a great opportunity we have for a Wild Rivers park.

  • Join the discussion on our FMC Facebook Page, and share our posts.
  • Check out all the public Facebook stories directly relating to the proposal with #wildriverspark
  • Share your own stories and photos on your own channels. Don’t forget to include the hashtag!
  • Write to local news papers showing your support.

Join FMC via your club or as an individual supporter

Every membership shows the support of one more person to FMC’s mission. Either talk to your club about affiliating with FMC, or consider joining as an individual supporter.

Donate to FMC Mountain and Forest Trust

The trust helps fund a number of activities that FMC is involved in, and every bit counts towards our vision.

You can learn about the trust and donate on our site.

Contact FMC directly

If you have specific concerns or views and wish to talk to FMC directly, please contact us.

  • Media and council contact: Jan Finlayson (FMC President): (021) 502297
  • Executive Officer: Danilo Hegg: (027) 3392688