Whitebaiters Association 2016 Annual Meeting:

The meeting was held on August 27th at Hokitika. There were some 47 members in attendance.  All office holders were re-elected. A range of issues were discussed. The following is an outline of the main points.

Whitebaiters Huts: A break from tradition has seen DOC now insisting that huts on DOC reserve along the Hokitika River, be removed at end of this season. Our issue is that the majority of huts on the Hokitika are on Council Reserve, and Council allows them to remain. DOC has followed the same practice for generations, but now signals a change. If followed through, this will mean a small minority of hut owners will be forced to dismantle and remove their huts, while the great majority will remain unaffected.   Long established custom and practice is being overturned. DOC has indicated they will not issue concessions for these huts. The Association has made representations to both DOC and the Council, with a proposal that this tiny strip of DOC reserve land be vested into the neighbouring Council reserve. Council have signalled an interest. We are seeking another meeting on this subject. with DOC.

Taramakau Gravel Extraction: This is an ongoing issue. The amount and method of past extraction has caused massive change in the river that has effected most stand holders, and depleted the remaining beaches.  Recently we met with the Regional Council, and Westroads. This was a cooperative meeting with all parties prepared to find a way forward. Westroads undertook to reshape a section of river bank to produce a site stands could be worked off. Unfortunately constant high river levels rendered the work unpractical, and time simply ran out. But that aside, the   depleted state of the beach cannot sustain ongoing extraction.  With the huge amount of gravel needed for roading associated with the new bridge, another site has to be found. 

Whitebait stand owners pay for consents for their site. When gravel extraction consents are being issued over the same site, they want to be treated as “Effected Parties”. Currently they are not. The Association will be visiting these issues, looking for long term solutions.

The Association has been in discussion with Transit planners regarding the new bridge. An issue still to be resolved is access to the South bank of the Taramakau. We are seeking a further meeting with planners, and District Council officers to resolve this. The current plan is to dispose of the existing car park, make a new park on the south side of the proposed rail overbridge some 700 m south, and use the cycle trail to access the river public walk track.  They propose to allow whitebaiters vehicle on the cycle trail during season. Other vehicle traffic would be blocked by a chain, and padlock. Keys would be under the control of DOC. We have a number of issues with this proposal, not the least being the health and safety issues. We are proposing a road off ramp near the existing parking site, as an alternative. There are issues around traffic vision impairment, caused by the height of the cycle trail safety rail. We believe minor changes to design can address this.

We have opened discussion with Grey District Council regarding their policy on shelters on the Grey River. This is work in progress. We hope to find a middle ground solution that affords whitebaiters shelter from the elements when fishing.

On the Customary Fishing front; this has been an ongoing issue which we have taken back to the Select Committee. The Association does not want to engage in a witch hunt.

The issue is more about reluctance on DOCs behalf to re-introduce regulations that enable effective management of Customary Fishing. Current arrangements work in a regulatory vacuum that doesn’t allow for effective policing, or prosecution of offenders. This situation lends itself to abuse. Members want the matter resolved.

Our Haast branch has gone into recess. I called a meeting last year, but it failed through lack of interest. I will try again this year. If this fails we will take over running the affairs of the Branch, Including its bank account. Disappointing, but necessary.

This lack of interest is apparent across the board. Membership numbers are well down despite our recruitment efforts. The issue is now impacting on our ability to service our members.

Apart from budget restraints, we now have organisations challenging our right to represent whitebaiters. I am disturbed by these approaches. The association has demonstrated a willingness to work on a consultative basis with others, over many years, we expect better.  This heavy handed attitude makes it difficult to continue in that vein.

Our membership numbers is not an affair for other organisations. It is an affair for whitebaiters. This association is not a charity. It is a registered association set up to serve it’s paid up members. Matters we deal with often effect all whitebaiters. Paid up members are carrying the can for the unpaid. Every whitebaiter will be aware of the growing cry to radically change the rules around whitebaiting. This is now coming from influential groups like Forest and Bird. The Conservation Board, who advises the Minister, and Dr Mike Hickford research fellow of Canterbury University are also calling for a review of regulations. Support at this level makes a review inevitable. It is just a matter of when.

The only effective voice whitebaiters have is their association. Apathy could see it side-lined. It’s time to lose the mucho man image. Bellowing into a beer glass will influence no one. Nor will the “she’ll be right someone else will handle it”, attitude work. Riding on the coat tails of the paid up members. is simply bludging. Members at our meeting expressed real anger at this practice. It is hard to understand why stand owners who have invested thousands into their stand, will not pay a small fee towards the organisation that works to protect that investment.

We keep membership fees low to make it easy to join. Subscriptions are $20 a single and $30 a double. Membership forms are available off our web site, or contact our secretary Anglea, via email on andersinn@xtra.co.nz, or phone 03 7533181. We will have reps on the main rivers with membership forms. When you see them, sign up. This is not an exclusive club. It’s open to anyone who whitebaits on the West Coast. Join us. There is a lot to do.


Des McEnaney                                                                                                                                                       President                                                                                                                                                            West Coast Whitebaiters Association





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