21 Oct 2012

Cantabrians flock to first whitebait festival

5:06 am on 21 October 2012

More than 4000 people in Canterbury took advantage of fine weather and turned up at the inaugural West Coast Whitebait Festival in Christchurch on Saturday.

The festival was supposed to have debuted in Christchurch last year, but was cancelled because of the earthquakes.

Westland District Council marketing manager Sonya Matthews said before the event that there was enough whitebait for more than 9000 patties.

She said she hoped the festival would become a regular event in Christchurch and be as successful as Hokitika's wild food festival.

One whitebaiter, Moana Kerr, says however that this being the middle of the fishing season, the event organisers had a big task just to get the whitebaiters off the river.

"It's a real big pull for any whitebaiter to come away from a river that has potential for fishing - it's just mad," she says.

Ms Kerr says the season has been slow so far and the baiters are yet to hit any quotas.