A parliamentary select committee wants the rules over
customary whitebait fishing tidied up as soon as possible,
amid concerns the issue could blow up on the West Coast again
Problems arose two years ago when Te Runanga o Ngati Waewae
issued two permits to allow customary fishing on the Hokitika
River - just days after the public whitebait season had
At the time, the Department of Conservation said iwi fishing
was outside its management.
The West Coast Whitebaiters' Association took up the issue
with the parliamentary primary production select committee,
but Ngati Waewae said it was a lot of fuss over 5kg of
The committee has now released a briefing paper, which says
after the 2012 fishing incident, "no action was taken by the
"We are concerned that if they are not swiftly addressed, the
issues raised by the West Coast Whitebaiters' Association
could lead to friction within the community, and may already
be doing so."
The committee said it recognised the challenge of balancing
customary fishing with the need to maintain or enhance fish
stocks, which had declined significantly.
"We urge the department to pursue a satisfactory solution for
all parties, as well as helping whitebait populations towards
recovery," if necessary by making regulations under the
Whitebaiters' association chairman Des McEnaney, of Awatuna,
said they were happy with the select committee conclusions.
The association told the select committee a customary fishing
event on the Hokitika River in 2012 had ignored responsible
Mr McEnaney told the Westport News that during the incident
some whitebaiters fished heavily for about a month after the
They caught up to about 300kg and were reported to be selling
significant portions of it over the counter of a local pub.
They said they were fishing to supply a hui in Kaiapoi.
Mr McEnaney said the one-off event highlighted a serious
shortcoming in the legislation and the way whitebaiting was
being policed on the West Coast.