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IRO vs Whitebait structures


The Cam River/Ruataniwha is a mid-size river in Canterbury,  its catchment are highly significant areas for Ngāi Tāhu.

This narrative is about how an Incident Response Officer tackled structures in the Cam river to create a safer, inclusive, and aesthetically pleasing river for all to enjoy.

The Cam River is a hotspot for whitebaiting and over the years, structures have been built on the banks of the river to enable further reach into the river therein enhancing whitebait catch. These structures are typically not authorised by resource consent and are therefore in breach of the RMA. My aim was to get the whitebait community onside and have these structures removed.

Complaints to Environment Canterbury about illegal whitebait stands in the Waimakariri/Kaiapoi area had been occurring for years, with no clear resolution being made as it all seemed to hard. We knew that plans to control/manage/remove illegal structures would cause some degree of conflict between the whitebaiting community and the council and potential conflicts with whitebaiters could have become a political issue and be taken to the media.

Whitebaiting tends to be very competitive and people like to get as much of an advantage as possible. The most difficult part of this mission was to create behaviour change in the whitebaiting community which was no mean feat.

The issue therefore was how to implement a plan to ensure illegal structures were no longer placed in the Cam River, and if they were still being built, how to enforce removal without causing political conflicts between ECan and the whitebaiting community.

We had success in the Cam, the challenge continues with temporary structures in the Avon River in Christchurch, watch this space...


Thursday 8th December, 2:40pm


Kiri Kirkwood
Incident Response Officer, Environment Canterbury


Kiri has been an Incident Response Officer (IRO) with Environment Canterbury Regional Council for 4 years and is passionate about making a change to our environment. Although an IRO is an enforcement role, the education component of the role is her driving force. She is keen to drive change through getting people to understand their impact allowing for a shift in behaviour within themselves.

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