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Wānaka dredging bid fails to strike gold

The suction dredge Cold Gold Clutha Ltd proposes using the Upper Clutha River, downstream of Luggate

Posted on January 22, 2024

The Resource Management Act (RMA) is holding back productivity, a mining consultant says, after consent to dredge the Clutha River near Wānaka was refused by commissioners.

Cold Gold Clutha Limited sought resource consents to operate a 24m-long suction dredge on about 23km sections of the Clutha/Mata-Au River between Luggate and the top of Lake Dunstan.

It used the dredge to mine a 66km-long section of the Clutha River from Roxburgh to just south of the Beaumont Bridge, for the past 10 years.

The publicly notified resource consent applications were heard by independent commissioners representing the Otago Regional Council, Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago District Councils last year.

The Clutha River is popular for fly fishing, and many users opposed plans for a gold mining dredge in the river

In a decision released this week, the commissioners declined the consents citing concerns about visual effects, changes to the river bed, river safety and potential effects on Māori cultural values and interests.

Other adverse effects included the potential introduction of human sewage and fuel spills and effects on the macroinvertebrate community and fish habitat, including trout spawning habitat, and eel migration.

Company directors Daniel Walker, of Takaka, with Peter Hall, of Dunedin, could not be contacted for comment.

Mining consultant Darryl Sycamore, who prepared the applications, expressed frustration.

“There’s little wonder why New Zealand languishes towards the bottom of the global productivity indices when the Resource Management Act continues to be held hostage by nimbies and overzealous bureaucrats,” he said.

About 60 submissions on the proposal were received by the councils, including one from Kā Rūnaka that sought the applications be declined because there was not sufficient information to assess the effects on Māori cultural values and interests.

During the hearing process the company said it had a ‘Plan B’ if the consent was declined – to establish a small fleet of permitted dredges.

They would have to operate within different rules, but would not be subject to proposed exclusion areas and would be able to operate in shallower, more ecologically sensitive areas of the river.

The commissioners said they were unsure what the intent of that submission was.

“Should the applicant wish to undertake permitted activities in the upper Mata-Au then that is their prerogative.

“We have not had regard to any such ‘alternative dredging’ proposal, nor have we sought to compare it to the Cold Gold Clutha Limited applications before us.”


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