Whitebait is a general term used to describe small freshwater fish that are edible. In New Zealand, it describes the juvenile forms (around 4-5cm long) of five species of fish in the Galaxiidae family.
Catching and eating whitebait is common cultural practice in New Zealand, however many of the fish species are either threatened or at risk, so responsible fishing is encouraged.
To help make sure of the long-term sustainability of these fish species, the Department of Conservation revised the Whitebait Fishing Regulations in 2021. These include seasons when fishing is permitted, where you can whitebait and what gear you are able to use to do it.
Our role in whitebaiting
Our main function is to make sure any whitebaiting stands that are set up do not have an harmful impact on the environment and do not interfere with our flood defences (such as stopbanks).
Under the Regional Natural Resources Plan, the use, erection, reconstruction, placement, alteration or extension of whitebait stands in, on, under or over the bed of a waterway (i.e river, stream, lake or wetland) upstream of the Coastal Marine Area (roughly 1km from the river mouth) is a permitted activity.
This means you do not need a resource consent, but you need to meet certain conditions. These include:
- Getting permission from the landowner.
- Making sure the structure is stable, fixed and maintained.
- Making sure the structure is positioned at least 20m from any floodgate, culvert, bridge, stopbank or confluence.
- Causing minimal disturbance to the bed of the water body while set-up is occurring, and no contaminants (including paint, solvents or petrol) are released into the water.
Unlike some parts of New Zealand, whitebaiting structures in the Bay of Plenty do not come with property rights. Subject to landowner approval for access, anybody can use a structure for whitebaiting on a first come first served basis each day.
Read a full list of conditions. - please refer to Rule BW R26 on page 49.
When do I need resource consent for my structure?
If you are planning to build a whitebait stand in the Coastal Marine Area (approximately where the saltwater gets up to on a spring high tide), you will need a resource consent (under Rule DW R36).
If you are planning to build a whitebait stand within 20m of any flood defence, such as a stopbanks, you will also require a Rivers and Drainage Bylaw Authority.
Find out more about the bylaw and how to apply.
Finding your Coastal Marine Area
To find the Coastal Marine Area on your river, view the updated maps.
Applying for a resource consent
Complete the form for ‘Construct a culvert or bridge, other instream works, lake structures’ (1A), available on our consent forms page.