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Riverbed extraction . . . Fishermen are alarmed at the scale of gravel extraction in the Ashley River below the Ashley River State Highway One bridge at Waikuku. PHOTO: ROBYN BRISTOW

 

By ROBYN BRISTOW

Fishermen are alarmed at the scale of gravel extraction and the numbers of excavators and trucks digging and driving around the Ashley riverbed, below the State Highway One bridge at Waikuku.

One fisherman told the North Canterbury News it was “absolute devastation” in the riverbed with the extraction being spurred on by the development of Ravenswood, near Woodend and the demand for gravel for the Christchurch rebuild.

Fishermen are particularly irked as the area is part of the fishery along the east coast that has been closed over the winter months to allow it to recover, a decision made by Fish & Game and the Department of Conservation in consultation with fishermen.

Fish and Game North Canterbury is also concerned at the scale of the work, the length of time the riverbed is going to be “disturbed” and the impact on the birdlife and fisheries.

However, Environment Canterbury says the work is consented and all resource consents being operated “are being exercised appropriately”.

Andrew Arps, Environment Canterbury Waimakariri zone manager says extraction is being done under three existing resource consents held by Christchurch Readymix and Winstone Aggregates, with the current extraction being done by contractors on behalf of Christchurch Readymix.

He says the volume of gravel allowed to be removed has been calculated to lower the bed level to achieve the “design flood capacity of the river”.

“This is a huge benefit for the Waikuku Beach community,” he says.

“Birdlife and fisheries were considered for these consents when they (the consents) were processed.

“The consents have conditions relating to disturbance of nesting birds. The nesting season is from September to February so we don’t expect to see any nests in the river at the current time,” says Mr Arps.

“Birds prefer the cleared areas that gravel extraction creates to nest in, it is more likely that they will nest within this area this summer as a result of this extraction.”

Mr Arps says consultation is being held with Runanga and Fish & Game.

“It (consultation) has been specifically written into a consent condition requiring Christchurch Readymix to consult with them regarding installation of culverts and the related water diversions. This has occurred.

“To minimise sediment discharge, the excavation takes place away from flowing water which can result in pools of water forming. The newly created pools of water will all be connected to flowing water at the completion of works (i.e. no stagnant pools will remain).”

Mr Arps believes the bulk of the extraction will be completed over the next few months.

Fisherman Ian Brooklands says the numbers of trucks carting gravel seems to be growing daily each leaving its impact behind in its wake.

“It is full on.”

Fish & Game environmental adviser Scott Pearson says the extraction and its impact on the riverbed, fish and other aquatic species and the habitat of birds, is under investigation and there was consultation taking place as timeframes and area were being looked at being extended to cope with demand.

He says there is surplus gravel that can be removed but the scale and time being taken to extract the gravel was under the spotlight by Fish & Game.