Whitebaiters warn 'ratbags and drug dealers'

By Tui Bromley

A whitebaiter checks his nets. Photo / File / Glenn Taylor
A whitebaiter checks his nets. Photo / File / Glenn Taylor

The West Coast Whitebaiters' Association is applauding Westland Milk Products' proposal to move its outfall from its current site on the Hokitika River, while criticising "drug dealers and ratbags" ahead of the season opening this Saturday.

At the annual general meeting in Hokitika on Saturday, the re-elected president Des McEnaney said the Whitebaiters' Association had lobbied for years to have the temporary outfall removed from the Hokitika River and would continue to do so until the proposal became a reality.

He also said the association wanted to stamp out riverbank violence.

"I have been disturbed by the increase in the number of reports I receive of violent behaviour, especially on the Grey River," Mr McEnaney said.

"This is more than nit-picking. It involves serious threats and violence to local whitebaiters, and was not a one off event.

"The whitebaiters concerned were locals who have fished the area since childhood. They and their families should feel safe enjoying their fishing. The police are keen for whitebaiters to inform them of any illegal activity, and promise effective response. I encourage people to report such events as soon as they occur.

"Drug dealers and ratbags have no place on West Coast rivers."

Good progress had been made over the past year in regard to contamination on the Waitangitaona River with the association, Westland Milk, DOC, and the West Coast Regional Council, developing a programme to address the issues.

"We will look to introduce this programme to other needy rivers once identified."

Mr McEnaney said that the association was also working with DOC to restore breeding sites on the Okuru River and he was working on a submission in regard to changes to the regulations including having one set of regulations for the whole country, with the current West Coast rules as a basis.

Other changes mooted were the introduction of a minimum distance of eight metres between people whitebaiting (excluding those fishing on registered stands) and the inclusion of a number of rivers in the Schedule Two listing, including the Saltwater and the Mahitahi Rivers.

"This proposal is a significant change and needs to be worked through with other stakeholders," Mr McEnaney said.

"It is a work in progress. As a first step we have written to the Minister of Conservation seeking to set up a working party with DOC officers and other effected parties."

- Greymouth Star

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