On Wednesday we tried to provide some balance with stories of restoration of a few threatened waterways.
But today is the biggie… Perhaps by far the most telling of all? Over fifty years ago the Government decided to place at risk the greatest trout fishing river in the world – the mighty Tongariro.
The article commenced with the usual rave to get our attention – about fishing for half an hour, hooking nine fish of which five were landed and killed, you know the style, then the well known subscriber (who wrote under the name of “Matuku”) launched into the point of the article asking “What fate now awaits the Tongariro as an anglers river?”
“…one thing is sure. Whether we like it or not, the Tongariro is doomed….”
After criticising and accusing the Government Departments involved of “fobbing off anglers with platitudes that mean nothing and procrastination and on occasions downright lies” it went on to “safely predict that the Tongariro will be dammed and will become another manipulated gutter in the hands of the NZ Electricity Department.”
The reasons were specified including the greatly reduced flow will result in a reduction in spawning, insect life reduced, and a complete lack of faith in the authorities maintaining the flow rate when the threat of power cuts was looming the river would be reduced to a trickle, etc. with the Waikato manipulation used as a precedent when the fishing from Taupo to Mihi was ruined.
The article also suggested the alluvial sediment would cover the clean gravels needed for spawning beds, criticised the lack of any provision for fish ladders, erosion, pollution and silting problems were considered inevitable, plus all the little problems that arise when the natural rhythm of a river is broken.
The Government promises of improvements such as a proposed boat marina at the southern end of the lake at Tokaanu were considered a sop to allow them to sell their principles, etc. The development of other “sops” like the Turangi golf course was not mentioned.
Doom and gloom was forecast. All scary stuff for freshwater anglers. OK?
The proposal was a NZ sized version of the Snowy Mountain hydro electricity scheme to harness hydro energy by redirecting several famous trout fishing rivers through the proposed Tokaanu Power Station turbines and eight more power stations down the Waikato to the north. The ambitious scheme was to collect run off from both sides of the Tongariro National Park and redirect streams and rivers such as Moawhango and Whakapapa through tunnels (and even an underground power station) and canals via Lake Rotoaira to Lake Taupo which would increase capacity by about 20%. (Don’t quote me – I’m guessing)
Any loss of Tongariro fishing waters would be partially compensated by damming a shallow swamp at the head of the W(h?)anganui River (it didn’t have an h back then) and flooding a big puddle into Lake Otamangakau collecting water via a tunnel from the Whakapapa which was also under threat by the development.
Any possible economic benefits such as twenty plus years of employment opportunities from the development and a new town to be built alongside the cute little fishing village of Taupahi was not mentioned or considered. Back then, like every other angler, I subscribed in the NZ Outdoor magazine and devoured all the doom and gloom projections from such critics who described it as the end of the world…
Sometimes we have to swallow hard and admit we do live in a little slice of heaven? The evidence is in the images.