New Zealanders protest the flooding of rainforest

New Zealanders urged to protest huge Mokihinui set to flood 330 hectares of rainforest

Forest & Bird have launched a campaign to give New Zealanders the chance to urge Meridian Energy to withdraw its proposal to build an 85-metre-high dam on the pristine Mokihinui River on the West Coast.

Forest & Bird is asking New Zealanders to send a Forest & Bird e-card to publicly-owned Meridian, asking the company to live up to its stated environmentally-friendly ideals by leaving the Mokihinui alone.
A giant-sized postcard was delivered by Forest & Bird representatives to Meridian’s Wellington head office to kick off the campaign. The public can send their message via the Forest & Bird website or Facebook page.

Forest & Bird was joined by MPs, including Chris Hipkins, Peter Dunne and Kevin Hague, and representatives of organisations representing kayakers, rafters and trampers, who also want the river to remain in its natural state.

“We are asking Meridian to do the right thing and enhance its reputation as a generator of renewable energy by leaving this non-renewable river in its wild state. This e-card campaign is an opportunity for New Zealanders to join with us in showing Meridian how much this beautiful river means to us.” Forest & Bird General Manager Mike Britton said.

Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate Quentin Duthie said: “Destructive dams are old technology and are no longer acceptable on our irreplaceable wild rivers.”

Meridian’s proposed dam would create a 14-kilometre-long reservoir covering 330 hectares of rainforest and riverbed along the Mokihinui River gorge in New Zealand’s largest ever drowning of conservation land by a hydro project.

Until recently Meridian was the primary sponsor of Project Crimson, a programme to protect and regenerate rata and pohutukawa throughout New Zealand. Along the Mokihinui there is a profusion of rata that would be submerged by the hydro lake.

The dam would threaten 16 endangered bird species, including the blue duck or whio, as well as at least two unique species of giant land snails and the critically endangered long-tailed bat.

A dam would disrupt the breeding migration of an estimated quarter of a million endangered longfin eels and destroy important habitat for other native fish, including the giant and short-jawed kokopu.

Forest & Bird, the Department of Conservation and others are appealing the resource consent Meridian received last year. But the company also requires the permission of DOC as landowner to drown public conservation land, or to privatise the gorge by swapping it for other land.

Documents obtained under the Official Information Act have revealed that DOC intended to decline Meridian. After receiving the draft responses from DOC, the company withdrew its applications but it remains committed to the dam and presumably intends to reapply.

“Forest & Bird urges Meridian to accept DOC’s decision that this dam is completely unacceptable, and focus on environmentally-friendly projects,” Quentin Duthie said.

by David Livingstone

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