Spectrum 158. Whitebait Street.

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Tono kōrero mai

A look at a community of whitebaiters at the mouth of the Paringa River in South Westland, north of Haast.
Jim and Rae Matson introduce Stephen Riley to some of the regular whitebaiters as he learns about the history and customs of the community and why they liken themselves to neighbours in 'Coronation Street'.

Several generations of the same families have fished here for decades, living for months at a time in huts built on the edge of the river.
Jim's sister Joan and a friend Joan Work, are also present. They discuss the legendary West Coast Labour Weekend parties, which feature large amounts of beer.
The protocol of only fishing your own designated 'trench' is discussed, along with the rules about helping a woman to put her nets in or out

Jim describes the changes in the river, which has moved its course over the years.
By agreement all the fishers use open nets, so everyone gets a fair go if there is a "run" of fish. Trap nets are not used.

They describe the similarities between local characters and those found on "Coronation Street" and note that the communal nature of their lifestyle is what makes the community work, with everyone helping each other out.

Frank Matson, Jim's brother, describes his 'trench' and the way the fish are caught. He has been white-baiting since the 1940s, when there were no freezers to hold the fish which were kept in a 'live box" or cage in the water. He spends about three months a year on the river.

The programme finishes with the cooking of whitebait patties with Rae and Joan, who recall the primitive kitchen and bathroom facilities of some of the huts. Patties made with about two pounds of fish are served up.

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Year 1975

Reference number 33205

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Credits RNZ Collection
MATSON, Jim, Speaker/Kaikōrero
MATSON, Ray, Speaker/Kaikōrero
Riley, Stephen, Producer

Duration 00:29:06

Date 1975

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