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Imagine wading through a deep blue river with sun glistening off the water surrounded by big green Willow trees, birds chirping and fish jumping. This is the reality for those of the Waitaki River. The Waitaki River is the heart and soul of the Waitaki District community. People of the community have devoted their time and money into creating a sustainable environment and using it for recreational activities, many also use the river to provide meals for their family. Environment Canterbury has released a proposal which may change this way of life for the community. The proposal is named The Lower Waitaki River Water Catchment Plan. The plan consists of lowering the river flow from 326 cumec to a miniscule 105 cumec because of a very few number of dairy farmers not cleaning the water they use on their farm before releasing the dirty water back into the river. This will have a number of major effects on the wildlife of the area, recreational activities, people of the community and businesses in the close and wider community.

The Waitaki River is world renowned for having a high number of different species in one area. The Waitaki is mostly famous around the world for their river having Salmon, Brown and Rainbow Trout running in the same river. By decreasing the water flow many parts of the river will become in drought where some of the 26 native New Zealand birds many which are endangered inhabit, putting them in even more danger. As well as their habitat becoming into drought their food chain will be disrupted too. By lowering the water flow many areas where the fish spawn will either be damaged, no longer accessible by the fish or completely gone meaning that the reproduction of fish in the river will decline. This will leave the birds without a valuable food source which they heavily rely on multiple times a day.

People of the Waitaki community use the river on a daily to weekly basis for recreational purposes such as fishing, bird watching, swimming, duck shooting (May to the end of July), whitebaiting and jet boating. Most members of the community take part in at least one of those activities which were listed at least once every week. People come from far and wide to experience what the Waitaki River has to offer. Every year many people flock to the Waitaki River to spectate the race weekend which Jet Boating New Zealand hosts. The Waitaki River is in perfect condition for jet boat racing, with its sharp turns, perfect depths and safe spots where spectators can view the races from. People also come to the river from places far away to experience the fishing which is world renowned for the species of fish which run in the river. By decreasing the river flow many of these activities will no longer be able to take place. Fish will no longer be running in the numbers which they do right now because their spawning areas will not exist or damaged and jet boating will become very dangerous with waters shallower than shin depth.

People of the Waitaki have invested their money and time into the river and community. Many have decided to invest their retirement funds into buying property in the area so they are able to live their dream fishing life and live off the river, also many family people have decided to raise their children in the area so they can live a natural lifestyle around the river. By decreasing the water flow many will not be able to live this lifestyle anymore. Fishing dreams will be crushed and the river will be more dangerous for children to be around with the current increasing with the shallow depth.

Businesses in the close and wider community will also be effected by the river being lowered. Outdoor recreational stores will be effected the most. If people are no longer able to use the river for fishing, jet boating, hunting or swimming no one will need to purchase new products to replace old and worn ones. This will leave businesses with less income which will have a wider effect on the wider community with the staff getting less income too.

The Waitaki community will be torn apart if Environment Canterbury get their way and lower the river flow to 105 cumec. This is all because there are only a few dairy farmers whom are too lazy to clean the water they used before releasing the water back into the river. Environment Canterbury  are about to ruin a whole community’s livelihoods and they don’t even know it.

by Caitlyn K----- (written for a school assessment, and with her permission).