Buller District Council

New Zealand whitebait farm all go

10th March, 2021

The New Zealand Whitebait Limited project is all go after the Provincial Development Unit (PDU) announced it will invest $2 million through the Buller District Council towards the innovative project to farm New Zealand’s iconic whitebait on the West Coast.

Currently commercial supply is based solely on harvesting wild young fish as they migrate up rivers from the sea to the streams and wetlands where they will grow to adulthood.

Due to growing concerns about the future of the species, there has been a growing interest in how to develop a commercially viable and environmentally sustainable way to farm whitebait.

In 2018, commercial whitebait production was identified as a key priority in the Tai Poutini West Coast Economic Development Strategy. This is now set to become reality.

New Zealand Whitebait Limited has explored this concept through its pilot fish farm in Nelson over the last years. The company is now ready to commercialise farming whitebait in Westport.

The venture is backed by the Buller District Council, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Waewae and the PDU. The PDU is providing council with a $2 million dollar investment to help support the project. New Zealand Whitebait Ltd will provide up to $5 million to cover the rest of the $7 million project.

New Zealand Whitebait Ltd. Director Ben Smith outlines: “We are very excited to get started after years of research into the sustainable commercial farming of whitebait. Having some of the world’s leading experts on our team we are now ready to embark on this commercial venture.”

“It was a lot of work in the background and the PDU support is one large milestone in making this project a reality.”

“Not only will farmed whitebait satisfy the Kiwi taste buds but has the potential for New Zealand to export one of our favourite delicacy in the future.”

The PDU has also given council $200,000 to help provide oversight of the project’s governance structure and establish a project steering group.  This group will include Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Waewae.

Stage one of the whitebait farm is expected to be completed by June 2022, providing jobs for West Coast residents.

The farm is predicted to create 33.5 jobs directly, with another 30 jobs developing in local food businesses once the whitebait production begins.

Mayor Jamie Cleine says: “We are excited to support the establishment of the whitebait farm in Westport through the PDU. It is an opportunity for industry diversity in the Buller district and it compliments previous PDU funding into the port area.”

“It is a great example how a private – public partnership can generate a big gain for the community through a relatively small investment from the government.”


For more information please contact:
Sharon Mason


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