A southern Taranaki iwi says when it comes to looking after its people the sustainability of whitebait is just as important as social welfare issues.
Ngaruahine sub-tribes made applications under the Marine and Coastal Area Act to gather the tiny seafood delicacy as part of their customary rights.
Chair of the iwi's incorporation Daisy Noble is responding to criticism made by members of the public who challenged her iwi to focus on more important issues like social welfare instead of caring about whitebait.
She says whitebait is one of the tribe's important food resources that have nourished her ancestors for centuries and it makes sense to conserve them for the generations to come.
Mrs Noble says maintaining whitebait stocks is a priority because Ngaruahine, like other iwi, depend on these kinds of kaimoana to feed their communities.