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  • Writer's pictureTony Entwistle

Fish & Game Introduce New Designated Waters Licence to Replace the Backcountry Endorsement


From the start of the new trout fishing season on October 1st 2023, Fish and Game New Zealand have introduced a new 'Designated Waters' licence category to replace the previous Backcountry Endorsement. Our sports fisheries managers are seeking to mitigate overcrowding on a small number of New Zealand's most pressure-sensitive and fragile fisheries. Pressure-sensitive fisheries are highly regarded by both resident and non-resident anglers for the unique angling opportunities they provide. However, research and monitoring of these fisheries have shown that both resident and non-resident anglers are regularly being displaced from these fisheries because of overcrowding. To manage the angling pressure and experience in these pressure-sensitive fisheries it has become necessary to implement fisheries management mechanisms to control crowding and disperse angling pressure. The Designated Waters Licence has been applied to only a very small proportion of fisheries, comprising less than 2% of available fisheries.

What has happened to the Backcountry Licence Endorsement?

There is no longer a Backcountry Licence. The Backcountry Licence has been replaced with the DW Licence. Many (but not all) rivers that once required a Backcountry Licence are now classified as DW.

Who needs a DW Licence?

Any angler who wishes to go fishing in a river/ stream that is classified as a DW. The following regions have DW: Currently, six Fish & Game regions in New Zealand have Designated Waters Fisheries; Wellington, Nelson/Marlborough, North Canterbury, West Coast, Otago and Southland. Wellington: • Rangitīkei River

Nelson/Marlborough : • Mātakitaki River • Upper Wairau • Travers River

West Coast: • Karamea River • Mokihinui River

North Canterbury: • Hope River • Hurunui River North Branch • Hurunui River South Branch

• Waiau Uwha River

Otago: • Dingle Burn • Greenstone River • Hunter River • Lochy River • Nevis River • Pomahaka River • Wilkin River • Young River

Southland: • Ōreti River

For anglers not fishing in these locations, there will be no impact. The Designated Waters Licence works differently for resident and non-resident anglers. For resident anglers, if you want to go fishing in a fishery that is classified as a Designated Water, you will be required to:

  • Hold a whole-season licence; and

  • Purchase a full season Designated Waters Licence for the region whose Designated Waters you want to fish.

  • All regional Designated Waters Licences carry a cost of $5.00 to fund the higher management costs of these fisheries.

  • Only resident whole-season licence holders can be issued a full season Designated Waters Licence.


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