Frustrations were aired in Westport today, as over 100 whitebaiters gathered to talk through the Government's proposal to manage the endangered species.
However, as the Department of Conservation’s Freshwater manager Elizabeth Heeg tried to outline the plan there were many rather heated interjections.
“Why are you trying to do this s**t now,” shouted one whitebaiter, to the applause of those around him. He was voicing concerns over the suggestion more rivers on the West Coast may be shut for periods to provide refuge for the endangered species.
Whitebaiter Kelly Dooley says, “For some people it'll destroy them. Some people have fished in these rivers for many, many years. They don't need river closures.”
However, Ms Heeg says, “Where there's refuges there’s a higher density of inanga (whitebait species) and so those refuges would be really helpful if they were implemented around the country.”
Many also voiced concern about the economic impact on towns like Westport should more rivers be closed, but Ms Heeg says they plan to do a cost benefit analysis in each case before a closure is approved.
Buller District Council chief executive Sharon Mason says the council is fairly relaxed with the proposal as it stands.
She says, “I think it’s fantastic DOC are here today to consult with the community. I think it’s really important and I can understand some community members would have some concerns about rivers potentially being closed or restricted.”
Outside the meeting another whitebaiter told 1NEWS, “Why fix something that’s not broken?”
The meeting is one of 21 being held around the country, as part of the consultation process which closes on March 2. The next is being held in Hokitika tomorrow.