​​Whitebaiting is a popular recreational activity in Southland, with many people looking forward to the whitebait season each year.

 Whitebaiters' Rough Guide to Environment Southland's rules

Useful maps

Our role

Environment Southland regulates and manages the permissions to occupy river banks with whitebait stands. It also has the statutory responsibility to ensure the maintenance of waterways that contain the different life stages of whitebait.

Whitebait season

The whitebait fishing season for most of New Zealand opens on 15 August and runs until November 30. The only exception is the West Coast, where the season is shorter, running from 1 September until 14 November. Fishing is only permitted between 5:00 am and 8:00 pm or between 6:00 am and 9:00 pm when New Zealand Daylight Saving is being observed. The taking of whitebait at all other times is prohibited.

2013 whitebait survey

In an effort to better understand whitebaiting in the Southland region and what can be done to improve it, a survey was sent out in 2013 to tap into the knowledge of local whitebaiters. The survey included questions such as how often stand holders went fishing, the size of their catch, whether they noticed any negative environmental symptoms and whether they wanted to see any changes.

View the results of the survey.

Stand sites

There are around 660 whitebait stands in Southland, with most being located on the Mataura, Titiroa and Aparima Rivers. The number of whitebait stands permitted in Southland is fixed to contain the effects on the environment and amenity values.

View locations of whitebait stands along with consent information using our online maps.

Sites for whitebait stands are restricted to:

  • existing sites that have been lawfully occupied since 1997
  • new sites that are in the immediate vicinity of existing sites, where they can no longer be practically used (eg due to river bank erosion or changes to the course of the river)

Stand construction

All stands must be:

  • structurally sound
  • secure against flows and coastal processes
  • located so that they don't deflect flow into the river bank or increase water velocities near the bank
  • no more than one third of the width of the river, stream, estuary, or channel at any place or time
  • displaying the name of the owner on a post or handrail at the entrance to the stand

Stand maintenance and repair

Maintenance and repair of whitebait stands is usually minor, and as long as the foreshore or seabed around the structure is not permanently disturbed and no debris from maintenance enters the surrounding environment, no resource consent is required. If you're unsure whether the repair you're planning to undertake will require a consent, it's best to check with Environment Southland first. Call us on 0800 76 88 45, send us an email to service@es.govt.nz, or contact us by other means.

Stand replacement

Whitebait stands can be replaced when:

  • the original stand has been destroyed;
  • a stand needs to be moved, e.g. due to bank erosion or changes to the course of a river.

If possible, replacement stands should be located as closely as possible to the former site.

Replacement stands must be placed a minimum of 20 metres from other existing stands.

Note that if the replacement stand is not completed within one year of the loss of the original stand, the consent will lapse. In these cases, the right to establish a stand on the site will be re-allocated.

Transfer of ownership

To transfer the ownership of your whitebait stand to another person, you have to fill out a transfer coastal permit form. The cost for this is noted on the form. Section Section 19.2.11 of the Regional Coastal Plan for Southland sets out the requirements for the transfer of a consent.

Form - Transfer Coastal Permit (PDF, 104.9KB)

More information

Page reviewed: 26 Sep 2018 10:32am