Save the date: Wednesday 05 July 2023, the annual Braided Rivers Seminar will once again be at Lincoln University. As always it will be free of charge and open to all. I’ve loaded the booking page to the website, but no need to hurry as we are still fleshing out the programme. I’ll let you know one that’s done.
As you no doubt aware, the Government is repealing the Resource Management Act (1991) and drafting new laws to, in their words ‘transform the way we manage the environment‘.
It’s worth taking a moment to reflect on what the RMA has done these past 32 years to enable ‘management’ of our braided river environments. You might recall how the definition of a ‘river’ and ‘riverbed’ in the RMA continues to enable the destruction of braided rivers and with them, the birds and other rare and endangered species that call them home. So it was with hopeful anticipation that I waded through the 807-page Natural and Built Environment Bill and 58-page Spatial Planning Bill, only to discover that braided rivers didn’t rate a mention. This Euro-centric view continues to compartmentalise all rivers into individual components: ‘river’, ‘land’, ‘bed’ and ‘margin’. Oh, and not a word about gravel extraction…which makes complete sense given that ‘braided rivers’ don’t exist in the proposed Bills. The poem Antigonish (commonly known as Yesterday upon the stair) came to mind.
Feel free to pause and think many things, possibly peppered by expletives around not ‘transforming the way we manage the environment‘.
While you’re thinking (or expleting expletives), I’d like to thank those at ECan who wrote their 45-page submission, which pointed out the obvious omissions. Submissions from Mahaanui Kurataiao and the Environmental Defence Society also called for recognition of braided rivers, to give them room to move, and to restore their ecosystems. A big thanks to Jo Hoyle at NIWA for responding to my bleating last-minute call on a simple definition of a braided river, before I finalised BRaid’s submission.
The deadline for submissions was a few days prior to the arrival of Cyclone Gabrielle. When I pressed the ‘submit’ button, a part of me lived in hope that the shoved-to-the-too-hard-basket proposed Climate Change Adaptation Act might focus on managed retreat.
In the aftermath of the cyclone, the term ‘managed retreat’ has abruptly become the catchcry of the Government and opposition parties alike. Let’s hope lawmakers realise that:
(1) Before you can retreat from something, you first need to recognize the existence of what needs to be retreated from, and;
(2) Retreat does not mean abandonment.
2023 update on the Orari River Vance Road colony, from Tony Doy:
“Last week (late January) I counted 146 well-developed tarapuka chicks. I think some would’ve fledged and left before I counted them, so a total figure could be higher. Earlier in the season, I counted circa 1500 adults (couldn’t see all of the colony from 2 separate vantage points).
Before Christmas we counted 48 tarapirohe eggs near the gull colony. After a small rain event over Christmas (I missed it as I was away tramping) the chicks had relocated 50+m downstream. Early January I counted around 30 chicks at various stages of development, including fully fledged. Currently the terns are located both upstream and downstream of the gull colony.
We have a ring of ten 200s, Timms and AT220 traps around the colony on the banks. Set out by Tim and Karen. Very few kills apart from the AT220s have been busy with possum kills. I’ve not heard of them predating colonies on riverbeds. (If anyone has come across possum predation on riverbeds, could you please let me know so that I can share it?)
Last weekend I recorded 2 separate black-fronted dotteral on site. One individual was trying to distract me; I couldn’t find any chicks though.
I haven’t seen any evidence of Harrier predation (that would be dead adults along the bank). There’s SBBG in the area.
We’ve had good support from Geraldine DOC with 4 employees (plus Tim and I, who are DOC but doing this as ORPG) using their own time to monitor progress.
Andy Hirschberg of Geraldine DOC subsequently checked the colony the first weekend of February:
Tern colony – of the original 70 nests, at least 7 were flooded, 1 abandoned at egg stage, 2 predated; 50% to 75% had sign of successful hatching.
Gull colony – 425 nests in the colony, 7 dead adults, 5 dead chicks, 31 nests had broken or abandoned eggs in them.
- “The Arthur’s Pass Wildlife Trust have been focussing on weed eradication for the last 2 months. Some funds were made available to enable some Contractor hours to be paid, but still the majority of the spraying in the Bealey Valley has been carried out by dedicated volunteers. APWT are grateful to DOC for helicopter spraying Turkey flat in the upper Waimakariri to knock back the lupins. This area is the main seed source of this invasive weed that has no place in braided river beds. It’s going to be a long ongoing fight to completely eradicate weeds, lupins in particular.” – Christchurch Envirohub
- ECan are in the process of removing Willows from the lower 15km reach of the Waipara River between Barnetts Road and the Waipara River mouth (areas 4-6 on this map). Helicopters are being used for targeted aerial spraying in February, followed by mechanical clearance from March.
Reports and research
- 2022-2023 DOC; Annual Outcome Monitoring and Predator Detection Report for the Aparima River Project, Southland
- The journal Nature has a new journal in its stable of publications: Nature Water. The first issue includes this research paper, which has implications for the commercial demand of water from Canterbury’s braided rivers.
- Environmental Defence Society; Principles And Funding For Managed Retreat: Working Paper 1. Raweyn Peart et al have outlined a comprehensive series of options, and unpack the question of who should pay.
- NIWA floodmaps are a great online resource for stats on floods. It could take them a while to update the North Island rivers. You might want to check now, so you can compare them.