Anglers complain to us that it is inevitable – that someone will get drowned one day due to neglect by Genesis – the power company that control the flows on the Tongariro River. They have been saying that for the last 12 years or so. The last time TRM reported on it in 2016, the unfortunate angler was also the Editor of Fishing & Outdoors newspaper and who is now President of NZFFA (New Zealand Federation of Fresh Water Anglers) – but they still have not learnt that anglers lives are at risk?
After a wet night on Wednesday the TRM team from Australia were keen to get out on the river. The Tongariro river level was up a bit following the rain and retreating – mild temperatures after rain, no wind, still very fishable, good colour, so all added up to perfect conditions. On our recommendations, they crossed over the bypass on to the island to fish the run at what is known as the Island Pool. This is within easy walking distance of TRM and provides several options.
These anglers from a Melbourne fishing club – Mornington Peninsula – are sensible mature experienced river anglers – so they would not panic over a minor fluctuation in river flow. But this was something else. They have stayed here before but are not that familiar with such huge Tongariro fluctuations. They are all retired and at a guess would be in their late 60’s or early 70’s, so they are not as nimble or fit as they once were. They are certainly not strong waders. So TRM choose their pools carefully.
Then after about half an hour after they crossed over to the island, without warning the river rapidly turns chocolate brown so they tried to return. But by then the crossing was flooded and flowing very fast. Fortunately they only just managed to wade across, and were very relieved to get back before the levels increased further. They thought they were going to be trapped there. They also met other anglers who just managed to wade back at the lower Judges Pool end of the island who were similarly alarmed at how this could be allowed to happen…
The best way to register their concerns is to repeat the same problem report below – from 2016. Sadly we could also repeat the same from the ten previous years as this is a regular occurrence.
Following TRM Report from May 2016:
About ten years ago one TRM inmate – an elderly angler from Perth – almost drowned trying to return from the island below the Bridge Pool. He had crossed over in knee deep water and did not realise why and how quickly the river rose. Locals who watched him trapped and waving from the island were about to strip off to try to rescue him when he crossed back by being swept down about 100 m below where he entered. Needless to say he was traumatised and has never returned. The drama was recorded in local newspapers. GENESIS over-reacted next time they closed off the canal by alerting police who drove up and down the river with sirens warning anglers to avoid the river. Everyone thought Ruapehu must have blown up again. It was ridiculous so they did not try that stunt again.
Last Saturday TRM anglers were trapped again. This time two anglers – one of whom is the well known Editor of NZ’s most widely respected Fishing newspaper – FISHING & OUTDOORS – Graham Carter from Hamilton with his brother Doug from Dargaville – were fishing below the Silly Pool on the island.
Fortunately they had advised SWMBO of their plans. When we noticed the sudden increase we realised their dangerous predicament and panicked. Together with TRM’s fishing escort/buddy (not a guide!) Hannah, we raced up there on bikes to warn them and others. These ‘middle river’ pools such as Silly Pool, Cattle Rustlers, Sly Grog Pool, etc. are only accessible from the eastern TRB. If they had remained in that island location it could easily have been fatal. Fortunately Graham’s fishing experience on the Tongariro warned him to abandon their spot below the Silly Pool just in time!.
On our way back we also met other TRM anglers Stephen Stewart and David from Wellington – see photo. When they had left the Koura Street Bridge carpark they noticed about six anglers in the Breakfast Pool and two had waded out into the middle of Hydro Pool, so conditions were reasonable. By the time they walked up to Cattle Rustlers the big quiet river pools had turned into a dangerous tumultuous flood. It happens that quickly. The same scenario occurred on Never-Fail Pool island and on the island above Judges Pool. There is no escape other than wading back into a furious torrent. It quickly becomes very dangerous.
So what can anglers do about it? Waiting another ten years for someone to drown before GENESIS wake up to their moral responsibility is no longer an option? After the previous near-miss a decade ago they have confirmed their mercenary attitude that profits are more important than human lives at risk. There are many things they could do but greed still comes first. What a surprise! They could easily postpone shutting off the canal until night-time when fishing is not permitted. They could shut off the Moawhango tunnel and send the water south? But no – that would not spin the $$$ turbines. There are many other options they could investigate but they might cost money so have been ignored – again. Since we last protested about their poor greedy corporate behaviour over ten years ago, GENESIS is now half owned by the public so they have even more reason to act responsibly.
So if you feel this matter is serious enough and/or should be investigated please forward this to GENESIS to let them know your concerns. Email them now –
It is no use contacting them locally as they gave up listening to public protests many years ago. Go over their heads to Head Office. Their Chairman is Jenny Shipley. TRM anglers suggested the Heading – GENESIS SUCKS. Most appropriate in the circumstances.
Having regard to Genesis’ inexcusable performance forcing rapid flooding on the Tongariro year after year for the last 40 years, it is time they faced reality. In 2016 they cannot continue disregarding the risk to public lives in their greedy quest for increased $$$ profits. It is time they considered people come first and close the Poutu Intake and returned the once mighty Tongariro to natural flows.
At first impression this seems a big ask commercially but Genesis have ample alternative power sources as proven by the recent closure of Huntly -(see below) plus alternative thermal and wind generation options. There are many examples in North America of such hydro power schemes being shut down forever for far less reason. GENESIS have abused the Tongariro environment and risked anglers lives for far too long. Public attitudes have changed. GENESIS has to learn and change too.
Genesis Energy operates the Huntly Power Station, a (953 MW) coal- and gas-fired thermal plant on the Waikato River. In addition to two gas/coal-fired generating units, Huntly has a 50 MW open-cycle gas turbine unit, and a (403 MW) combined cycle gas turbine commissioned in June 2007 as a NZ$500 million project. The first of the four coal-fired units at the Huntly Power Station was taken out of service in late 2012. A second unit was placed into long-term storage in December 2013 and permanently retired in June 2015. In August 2015, Genesis announced a timetable to end coal-fired electricity generation in New Zealand by closing the last two coal fired units in 2018.
GENESIS EXPLANATION FOR LAST SATURDAY FLASH FLOOD:
Following on from my phone call on Monday, please find below a response to the concerns raised on your blog regarding the Tongariro River flood event on the weekend. I would also like to reiterate my offer from this time last year that for any future concerns, you may contact me directly. That way, we can respond to any issues straight away rather than a few days later once news of your blog has reached us.
As discussed, the rainfall that fell preceding this natural event was in the vicinity of 30 mm over this period. While this isn’t a large rainfall event, the catchment was already wetted from rainfall during the week, so the river responded quickly.
The attached hydrograph shows flows in the Waipakahi River (red line) and Tongariro River at Turangi (black line). The horizontal axis shows 1 hr increments from 3 am Saturday morning to 2am Sunday morning. As you can see, the rainfall resulted in a sharp increase in flows on the Waipakahi River (a natural catchment not affected by the Tongariro Power Scheme) from 20 m3/s to 115 m3/s in 1 hour. You can see this rapid increase in flows is replicated on the Tongariro River at Turangi an hour later, where (due to the location further down the catchment), flows increased from 40 m3/s to over 200 m3/s over 1 hour.
As previously discussed, Genesis Energy has limited ability to control or affect flood flows on the Tongariro River. The Poutu Intake (which takes water from the Tongariro River and transports it to Lake Rotoaira via Poutu Canal), has a maximum consented water take of 80 m3/s, and can typically only take 65-70 m3/s. When flows in the Tongariro River (at Poutu Intake) reach 160 m3/s, Genesis Energy is required to close the Poutu Intake. This prevents the transport of Tongariro River sediment to Lake Rotoaira and is a resource consent requirement. The closing of Poutu Intake is a staged automated process, occurring over a 1.25 hr period. This staged closing of the intake ensures that there is no sudden increase in natural flows. This essentially means that when the Poutu Intake is taking water, Genesis Energy is moderating the natural flood flows in the river. Once the river reaches 160 m3/s, the natural flow of the river is allowed to flow past the intake once it has been staged closed. The increase in flows you experienced on Saturday were well in excess of any storage capacity on the Tongariro Power Scheme.
Genesis Energy has the utmost respect for river users and takes the safety of all stakeholders very seriously. We have numerous controls in place around the scheme to help manage safety, such as the provision of publicly-accessible hydrology data on the Genesis Energy website (https://www.genesisenergy.co.nz/rivers-lakes-rainfall), and a Flow Phone (07 386 8113). I note that the flow data on the Genesis Energy website shows current flows in the rivers around the Tongariro Power Scheme. These are not forecasting tools, and river users should look at rainfall graphs (also available on our website) and weather forecasts to make decisions about whether it is safe to enter the river. The peaky nature of flows in the Tongariro River mean that the river can rise very quickly under natural flood conditions, and it is important to look at rainfall and forecasts for the headwaters of the catchment, not just in Turangi. As you know, it can often be raining in the headwaters of the catchment but not in Turangi, which will affect the river flows.
I hope the above information is useful in explaining the natural rapid river increase on 28th May. As I mentioned on the phone, I would be more than happy to show you the Poutu Intake to demonstrate the little ability Genesis Energy has to control flood flows in the river, or to answer any remaining questions you may have. In the future, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly with any queries or concerns and feel free to pass my contact details on to other members of the fishing community who may have similar queries.
Craig Brown | Environmental Lead – North Island
Genesis Energy | Private Bag 36, Turangi, 3353
M. 021 230 4993 | DDI. 07 384 7241 | genesisenergy.co.nz
Thank you Craig.
I am sure all the inconsiderate unhappy dissatisfied soggy anglers now understand?
TRM have seen the same explanation for years. Anglers (aka stakeholders) know there is no point in complaining directly to Genesis. They are never at fault. Anglers still complain to TRM as they know we will listen or that is where they are usually staying – to recover after their dunking..
Perhaps it also says something about Genesis PR communication skills…
TRM have again run Genesis’ explanation past local anglers but they do not accept it. They never have and never will.
They reiterate to TRM again – it is such basic simple logic really. Any hydro power business operating system that puts lives at risk should be reviewed and modified or removed. The interests of river users should be placed ahead of $$$.
Everyone understands that – except Genesis. Once again, TRM anglers have asked us to reiterate the ideal solution for Genesis. i.e. Close down all the Tongariro dams and return the river to natural flow. Then you will not be liable next time an angler gets trapped.
As we have repeated now for over ten years – one day someone will not be so lucky as Graham Carter who just managed to escape on the weekend.
Genesis have been prepared to take that element of business risk and so far may have won. Anglers – aka stakeholders – are not prepared to.
If, as Genesis suggest: “The increase in flows you experienced on Saturday were well in excess of any storage capacity on the Tongariro Power Scheme.” then the power scheme should be shut down and removed as it is simply too dangerous to river users. But we understand Genesis have to put profits ahead of human life. There is no sense of corporate responsibility. They call it “business”? We call it lunacy.
Naturally they claim: “Genesis Energy has the utmost respect for river users and takes the safety of all stakeholders very seriously. We have numerous controls in place around the scheme to help manage safety….” But the evidence is there to prove that their systems do not work. Every season anglers are still put at risk. If it looks like heavy rain in the catchment and run-off might exceed 160 cumecs then it should be Genesis’ responsibility to ride up and down the Tongariro river bank to warn anglers before or as soon as they close their canal. They have never been seen patrolling the river when it floods.
Surprisingly and so disappointing, again there was no mention in Genesis’ letter of Turangi’s proposed new tourist attraction – the Cave of Mordor? Their refusal to even consider it is why anglers need to appeal to a higher authority. (Nor any exclusive contract to TRM? SWMBO will be relieved.) They must be in denial? Genesis must be making so much $$$ out of their power station they can walk away from potentially $1M p.a. for doing nothing more but just allowing tourists access.
Thank you for all the support. (I tried to go fishing yesterday but spent most of the time bailed up by angry anglers who were most encouraging about TRM’s reporting on Genesis. Genesis have no idea how much they upset locals…) i.e. following letter from a West Island angler received yesterday:
“Thank you for pointing out what in my opinion has been the single greatest detriment to the Tongariro river; the reduced flows.
Historically the river’s claim to fame, apart from the size of the fish, was as a southern hemisphere surrogate for the (medium) large freestone steelhead rivers of the pacific northwest and the salmon rivers of the north atlantic.
Where one had the landlocked equivalent of an anadromous run into a river with large, and especially, wide pools demanding long casts to cover the lies. One needs no more than a superficial acquaintance with north american “spey” blogs to divine their enrapture and evangelism over “swinging” flies, and even allowing for their mode of expression, I think that is quite true. When fishing for running trout (or salmon) nothing beats a hook up wide out on the swing. The wider the better.
To a large extent that’s all gone now on the Tongariro. Particularly the lower river; where once there was a reasonably long cast toward the far bank now just roll casting out the head puts your fly in the opposite vegetation.
Accompanying that is, I believe, a marked reduction in holding water or lies for running fish
If one takes the time to trawl through the advocates reports etc. there is a lot of interesting material.
Mention is made of NIWA and Cawthron opinion that reduced flows have benefited the river. It seems to me that that is based solely on argument as to the capacity of the main river to produce/sustain juvenile stock (which is also contentious and ignores tributary streams) and fails to consider availability of holding water for running fish and the method of their pursuit.
Your material on the Elwha experience is encouraging.
The Olympic peninsula has some association with NZ.
I think Doug Rose (The Colour of Winter) references the NZ term “quinnat” salmon as deriving from chinook stock obtained from the quinault river.
And when one reads about Syd Glasso using lead based paint to try and create a more dense/faster shooting head there are similarities to early 70’s tongariro anglers with nothing much more than wet cel II
As a fellow “true believer” “keeping the faith” your recent post has spurred me to look at buying Genesis Energy shares with its opportunity, to scramble the metaphor somewhat, to be “inside the tent and pissing in”.
9.30 am Update – another email received:
Hi Ross, Keep up the good work. Genesis response is BS.! If Genesis do not open the underground power station for tourists then they do not want to be a good corporate citizen. JT