Rogue whitebaiters knocking down fences and camping illegally

The Avon River is a popular spot for whitebaiting. Photo: George Heard
The Avon River is a popular spot for whitebaiting. Photo: George Heard
Rogue whitebaiters are knocking down fences and camping illegally in Christchurch’s post-quake red zone, frustrating authorities and law-abiding fishermen.

Only a week into the new season, the city council has been dealing with whitebaiters forcing entry and parking up illegally along the Ōtākaro/Avon River in tents and self-contained buses.

Two fences were broken at Locksley Ave and River Rd in the first few days.

Dallington Residents Association chairwoman Bebe Frayle said the area already had a problem with unauthorised vehicles “hooning round” in the red zone, which she says invites more trouble.

“People see that there are people in there over the fences, and then it just encourages other people to do it as well.

“It just creates a bit of a free-for-all all, which is not great.”

One whitebaiter, who doesn’t want to be named, said this is the kind of behaviour that gives the rest of them a bad rap.

He said the rules are there for a reason and wants other whitebaiters to be fair about it.

“Breaking down fences and setting up full-on campsites is a step too far.

“And it annoys the rest of us. That’s where fights between whitebaiters start, and again that just makes us look bad.”

He said they’re all in the same boat, and have to do what they can to make sure future generations get to fish as well.

Christchurch City Council last year ruled whitebaiters can no longer purchase keys to access fenced areas around the riverbank.

City council residential red zone manager Dave Little said the situation is disappointing, but he hopes things will improve.

“It’s probably one of those situations that we’ll get at the start of the season, and then our rangers go out and talk to those individuals... we’re hoping that then they’ll start to even out.”

Little said they’re managing the issue, and those they’ve spoken to have complied so far.

“If that becomes a repeated pattern, and it starts to look like it’s going to escalate, then our rangers would have to hand those matters on to police.”

Frayle said the council has become good at dealing with this situation, but antisocial and disrespectful behaviour is a problem every season.

“There are people who are whitebaiting along that river [who] don’t leave any mess, and they’re respectful... but there are lots of people who aren’t.”

She added that whitebaiters need to be mindful they’re entering a community who have been through a lot, and while they want to share their space, they need to feel safe.

The season is set to last eight weeks.

By Emily Ansell