13 May 2011

Trio who claimed 700 paua for tangi jailed

8:42 pm on 13 May 2011

Three men have been jailed for nine months for what a judge called the deceitful plunder of 701 paua from a South Taranaki reef.

The sentence in New Plymouth District Court on Friday came despite the judge admitting that he might have made a mistake over the basis of their conviction.

Waiotama Baker, Patrick Kake and Jason Tonga did not have a customary fishing permit but said most of the paua were koha, or a gift, for a tangihanga (funeral ceremony).

Family of the deceased man say they did not know the men and their taking advantage of his tangi caused anguish and distress.

The daughter of the deceased, Diane Watson, told the court the offenders blatantly lied and took advantage of the tangi.

Ms Watson said koha does not encompass breaking the law, nor showing a total disregard for the sustainability of the country's natural resources.

"Koha does not bring shame upon the recipients (and) is not an alibi for criminal activities."

Possessing paua to obtain a benefit can attract five years' jail, but previous convictions required a commercial element.

Judge Allan Roberts, who in March convicted the trio on the basis that the marae would have obtained a benefit from koha, on Friday admitted that he might have got that wrong.

The judge says in any case, the benefit attaches to the paua and warned anyone plundering Taranaki paua beds that jail may follow.