President’s Report 2020

Acknowledging that the management of whitebait is vitally important to our Communities and iwi former president Des McEnaney, Solicitor Colin Smith, vice President, Rod Clark, Treasurer, Karen Burrows, Secretary, Rose Searle, and I met with Minister Eugenie Sage in Hokitika. The intention was to develop a platform for free and frank discussions, and we made good progress to that end.

The minister encouraged each one of us to have a say. She took notes and promised to follow up on our concerns. An immediate result was that on our recommendation, the round of discussions on whitebait management throughout the country took place well outside of the fishing season unlike the previous consultation meetings during the season. Des and I travelled to Westport to be part of the discussions in that area and, of course again in Hokitika.
Another promise the minister made was to follow up on the question of access after it was stated in the Conservation (Indigenous Freshwater Fish) Amendment Bill that authorisation would be required for a person to take indigenous freshwater fish from a conservation area. This is a concern for a helluva lot of us fishing for whitebait and with stands on conservation administered land.

I have kept niggling at our local MP’s and DOC for clarification on this issue and kept information flowing to member’s emails and through the media, especially local newspapers, and Facebook.
Understandably there is a lot of concern/confusion about river closures and no doubt you will have read the Association’s submission to the DOC Whitebait management review where we do not agree with any river closures but perhaps tributaries and only where there is unquestionable scientific evidence of the necessity to do so. Incidentally, our Association submission to the proposed changes to whitebait management was supported with signatures from the Buller, Grey and Westland District Mayors and the Chairs of Development West Coast, the West Coast Regional Council, Te Runanga o Ngati Waewae and Te Runanga o Makaawhio.

Aquaculture specialist, Paul Decker came from Warkworth to Hokitika at his own expense to talk to whitebaiters about his successful venture breeding all species of whitebait and releasing them back into rivers and tributaries in the Auckland region that had been polluted and depleted of indigenous whitebait. To me Mr Decker’s success in breeding whitebait is highly significant and needs greater acknowledgement and consideration going forward with future whitebait management.

Local MP’s and DOC have also been hounded for clarification on the Conservation General Policy, stating that there will be no new concessions for private huts on conservation land and concessions due for review will be granted in the short term only. And I have kept hounding for the findings of our submissions to the whitebait management policy review, which lately I have been given to understand will not be released before November.
As we all know the Corona Virus has disrupted any forward movement and now it’s just a waiting game, I am afraid.

I am grateful to have been well supported by my two deputies Rob Roney and Rod Clark. I understand Rod is stepping down due to future projects that will take him out of the region. We will miss his input.

We were lucky indeed when Trish Roney agreed to take on the secretarial role and allow Rose Searle to move aside. Rose reluctantly came on board last year at a time when she was inundated with community and health projects and was working full time. Our valued, hardworking treasurer Karen Burrows and I had been keeping the ship afloat until then and were very grateful, also to Barry Wilson who stepped up to the mark as deputy at that time. We are also fortunate that while Colin Smith’s tremendous workload does not allow him to be a committee member, he is prepared to offer his professional advice and to take part in negotiations when time allows.

Rob and Trish Roney are both very professional in their undertakings and we are lucky to have them on board. I am grateful that Rob is prepared to take on the presidency and allow me to step down. A recent health scare was an unexpected blip on my lifestyle and even though the Christchurch hospital could find nothing wrong with my body or my brain, I decided it was time to step down and lessen the load.

Cheryl Riley
West Coast Whitebaiters Association