Environment Canterbury wants illegal whitebaiting structures removed from rivers

Seven Sharp
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An increase in rickety plinths, platforms and jetties has Environment Canterbury (ECan) casting its net wider for more illegal whitebaiting structures in the region's rivers.

ECan resource management officers have been visiting waterways, viewing some dodgy constructions and talking to whitebaiters over the past week following complaints from the public.

Zone delivery manager Paul Hulse said the structures were being built "all the time" with the aim of being able to reach whitebaiting nets further into rivers.

An illegal whitebait structure in Christchurch's Avon River/Otakaro.
ENVIRONMENT CANTERBURY
An illegal whitebait structure in Christchurch's Avon River/Otakaro.

"Some of them are nearly as substantial as a jetty or deck, while others are simply pallet rafts dig into the river bank."

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A concrete structure in Kaiapoi's Cam River was a clear breach of the Land and Water Regional Plan, he said.

An illegal concrete structure in the Cam River to help whitebaiters reach nets further into the river.
ENVIRONMENT CANTERBURY
An illegal concrete structure in the Cam River to help whitebaiters reach nets further into the river.

"These structures are illegal because they have a serious environmental impact. Aside from breaching Department of Conservation rules prohibiting fishing from a fixed structure, and being a public safety risk, they change the hydraulics of the river and cause bank destabilisation, flood risk, and sediment issues."

ECan removed about 20 illegal structures from the Cam River at the end of last summer.

Officers were asking for voluntary removal of the features in the first place, rather than issuing abatement notices or fines, Hulse said.

A rickety and illegal whitebait structure reaching out into the Kaiapoi River.
ENVIRONMENT CANTERBURY
A rickety and illegal whitebait structure reaching out into the Kaiapoi River.

"Voluntary compliance is our best outcome, both because the bill for removal is otherwise footed by the ratepayer and because we're not interested in moving the problem further along the river.

"We're not trying to make life difficult for whitebaiters but, at the same time, it's pretty crucial that we protect the environment our native fish live in."

Anyone seeing a suspicious structure should call ECan's incident response line on 0800-Pollute.

Whitebait is a sought after delicacy with regulated fishing season.
SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFF
Whitebait is a sought after delicacy with regulated fishing season.

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