Being part of a community involves interacting with those who are not like you – they may be different in age, gender, ethnicity or culture. Managing spots on a river for whitebaiters requires delicate maneuvers and where this is not managed well, the situation can become contentious and explosive.
Whitebaiting for many is muli-generational. To find out about local whitebaiting on the Waiwhakaiho and to make connections to this community Jessica Clark walked up and down the mouth of the Waiwhakaiho River during high tide and approached the whitebaiters that were there on the day. She spoke to six whitebaiters, 3 women and 3 men; all of them were over 50. She took notes of their stories, and following are the common themes that emerged during conversations with them.
Three of the whitebaiters spoken to were retired, and they told me that most of the people who whitebait during the working week are retired. They also mentioned that this group of retired whitebaiters deliberately choose not to whitebait on the weekends. This is because the Waiwhakaiho River and Te Rewa Rewa Bridge are busy on the weekends. One man Clark spoke to called Tom said “Us oldies do it for the peace and quiet, so the weekends don’t suit us because that’s a busy time here. So the oldies know to leave the white baiting to the young ones on the weekends.” The other whitebaiters who were not retired were part time workers or were beneficiaries, and were therefore able to whitebait during the week.
Five out of six of the people that she spoke with had been white baiting since their childhood. Their parents or grandparents had taught them how to whitebait and they had been doing it ever since. They also mentioned the changes they had witnessed in whitebait populations across the seasons. Three out of these five whitebaiters said that there seemed to be a trend in whitebait populations, saying that they often experienced two or three seasons of low population levels and then the following season they would see a dramatic increase in population across the Waiwhakaiho and other Taranaki rivers. They all told me that this year had been a particularly good year.