Whitebait are expensive, but Morrie has awakened us to their real value to Maori people

We should have realised it would have a cultural value, too…

Alf had been looking forward to a culinary treat this weekend.

A feed of whitebait, no less.

The whitebait season outside the West Coast opened in mid-August and runs until the end of November.

A mate had been out and about when he bumped into a whitebaiter who – over a drink at the boozer – sold him some of the stuff.

He was bringing it around to the Grumbles’ house tomorrow for a cook-up.

Whitebait fritters with a drop of something classy from the Martinborough vineyards.


But some tosser from an outfit called the Te Wai Maori trust has rather ruined the intended occasion.

He has made Alf realise that scoffing the whitebait would deprive Maori of something of cultural value to them.

Not great cultural value, it seems.

But cultural value nevertheless.

Being of a sensitive disposition and a fellow who would never do a cultural mischief to anyone, Alf has cancelled the lunch.

The news item that alerted Alf to the cultural significance of whitebait (here) said –

Whitebait have a cultural value and their commercial sale should be stopped or controlled, says Te Wai Maori Trust, which has a responsibility to advance Maori interests in freshwater fisheries.

The news item quoted the trust’s director, one Morrie Love.

This Love bloke says although whitebait isn’t as important (should that be aren’t as important?) to iwi as eel, the fish nevertheless do have some cultural value.

He says whitebait isn’t part of the quota management system, but is sold commercially and that needs to be re-thought.

Mr Love says not all whitebait species can regenerate quickly, and the fishing effort and the habitats of whitebait need to be considered to ensure the future health of the species.

So there we have it.

But before calling off the lunch, we had to make sure this trust is the real McCoy. Or McKai.

Mrs Grumble was put to work and, on digging up her information, rebuked Alf for having forgotten it was set up as part of the Māori Fisheries Settlement and was established to advance Māori interests in freshwater fisheries.

Freshwater fisheries includes species, habitat, surrounding land, water column, water quality and quantity.

Protecting Māori interests in freshwater fisheries ultimately means protecting habitat to ensure quality water and abundant species.

The trust’s history is set out here

Te Wai Māori Trustee Limited (Te Wai Māori) is a statutory body.

We are a product of the Māori Fisheries Act 2004.

In the initial years after the passing of the Act, the work programme of Te Wai Māori was dominated by work scoping both freshwater fisheries and Māori interests.

This baseline work provided an important foundation.

Since then major projects undertaken by Te Wai Māori have sought to build on this by undertaking specific exemplar research projects jointly with iwi and hapū, working on legal issues concerning water ownership, acting as a clearing house for information to iwi and hapū (eg indigenous fisheries; species information; research; information templates), contributing to eel aquaculture discussions and participating in policy development areas which impact significantly on both freshwater fisheries and Māori interests

A busy little outfit, eh…

The purpose of all this toil is set out (here) –

To advance Māori interests in freshwater fisheries through:

* Undertaking or funding research, development and education;

* Promoting the protection and enhancement of freshwater fisheries habitat;

* Promoting the establishment of freshwater fisheries; and

* Using resources to bring direct and indirect benefits to Māori in respect of their freshwater fisheries interests

So where do they get their money?

Or to put it another way, how much did Te Wai Māori receive in the Māori fisheries 2004 settlement?

The answer can be found here

Te Wai Māori has received the total capital sum of $20 million. The trust can not expend or distribute any of this capital.

In 2009 – 2010, Wai Māori received $10 million from Te Ohu Kaimoana as part of the capitalisation of the trust provided for through the Māori Fisheries Act.

The remainder of the fund is being transferred to Wai Māori progressively at the rate of $1 million per year until the full $20M is paid.

Ongoing annual funding is limited to the income generated by the capital of the Trust

And – ahem – does the trust provide a trough into which snouts can be thrust?


As you learn here, it is being replenished.

Or rather, the trust is working on a rule book to determine who may dip their snouts into the aforementioned trough.

We are currently in the process of developing criteria to support iwi and hapū and provide funding for development, research and education to promote Māori interests in freshwater fisheries. We hope to have this developed, and ready to receive applications in the very near future.

Can’t wait.

Alf is confident he can present a good case for researching whitebait, to ensure their dwindling numbers have not doomed the wee buggers to extinction.

If he happens to catch some in the course of his research – well, he is sure that’s fair game.

So long as it is not sold.

It’s the commercialising thing that is culturally problematic, obviously.

This is a good omen for when Maori become owners of the water.

Alf imagines commercialising the water would be culturally problematic too, which means they will give it away.

Won’t they?

One Response to Whitebait are expensive, but Morrie has awakened us to their real value to Maori people

  1. cc-community.net

    Whitebait are expensive, but Morrie has awakened us to their real value to Maori people | Alf Grumble

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