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A ‘modest’ start to Hawke’s Bay whitebait season

Media Release
29 September 2014

A ‘modest’ start to Hawke’s Bay whitebait season


Hawke’s Bay rivers are in excellent condition for whitebaiting, with plenty of keen anglers out trying to net a meal of the slippery delicacy.

The season began on 15 August and so far the reports suggest ‘modest’ catches. The season runs until 30 November.

Each year Hawke’s Bay Regional Council issues around 200 resource consents to ‘erect whitebait stands’ on council-owned land. The consents cost $45 plus GST. This fee covers everything from issuing keys and changing locks to allow whitebaiters access to restricted areas, as well as inspecting and monitoring stands and the surrounding areas to minimise damage. Dispute resolution is a major part of management, with police regularly called over complaints and arrests are periodically made.

HBRC Operations - Engineering Officer Vincent Byrne says the majority of whitebaiters are supportive of the consenting system as it guarantees them exclusive rights to a “piece of river bank” for as long as they continue to pay their annual fee.

“We see a real sense of community develop on sections of the river. Many meet up each year with the same people. In fact some have been fishing alongside each other for decades,” says Mr Byrne.

Weed boating
Mr Byrne says another issue HBRC manages around whitebaiting season is weed boating on the Clive River.

“Weed boating is vital to the Heretaunga Flood Control and Drainage Scheme because without constant maintenance to our rivers and drains the service provided by this scheme would rapidly decline.”

He says this year weed boating finished two days before the whitebait season opened, with further weed boating undertaken prior to Christmas to allow for rowing events. In total the Clive River is weed boated three times a year.

“During low flows it can often take weeks for the residue weed to flush out to sea. Between tides this weed ebbs and flows only gradually working itself out to sea. Understandably this can cause concern among some whitebaiters.”

He says this year the weed has been particularly bad in the Clive River. The Karamu Stream is a tributary of the Clive and is relatively slow flowing, shallow, with a high nutrient loading. This combination promotes heavy weed growth. Consequently this stream is weed boated 8 times a year.

Mr Byrne says even though the Karamu Stream flows into the Clive River it does not come under the same date restrictions as the Clive.

“The vigorous weed growth in the Karamu requires a more regular schedule of weed boating and most of the weed collects on the Whakatu sewer bridge before entering the Clive, where it is mechanically removed by long reach digger. Some weed will still bypass this bridge.”

He says HBRC staff work hard to balance sound river management with the needs of recreational users. “We try to work with groups to mitigate adverse affects to their activities. Sometimes weather conditions and circumstances rule out a perfect outcome.”

Whitebait Spawning Enhancement
The Waitangi (Tutaekuri, Ngaruroro, Clive) and Tukituki Estuaries are regionally significant whitebait spawning habitats. They have been degraded over the past 100 plus years through wetland loss, modification of riparian margins, stock grazing and inappropriate recreational use, in particular from vehicles.

Since the early 2000’s HBRC and the Department of Conservation have joined forces to protect and enhance existing spawning habitat, as well as create new ones in and around the Waitangi and Tukituki estuaries. This work has included extensive riparian fencing (e.g. Grange Creek), the creation of wetlands and whitebait spawning channels, the exclusion of cattle grazing from certain sites, restricting vehicle access to some areas and the planting of appropriate vegetation in places.

HBRC is keen to raise awareness and promote the ecological significance of these estuaries and their whitebait habitat through improved informative signage.

© Scoop Media

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