2 Apr 2013

Paua industry backs off Dunedin proposal

8:13 am on 2 April 2013

The paua industry says it is prepared to back down on a plan to allow commercial harvesting on a section of Dunedin coastline.

Recreational divers have been in uproar about the Ministry for Primary Industries' proposal to open 11 kilometres of protected coast on the Otago Peninsula.

Paua beds on Otago Peninsula.

Paua beds on Otago Peninsula. Photo: RHYS BARTLETT

The peninsula's rocky coastline has been protected from commercial harvest since 1986, originally because of local sewage outfalls.

When local man Rhys Bartlett goes diving for paua just near his house at the base of Otago Peninsula he takes up to 10 shellfish a day.

He says commercial divers can each take up to 2000 a day and will quickly leave his community with nothing.

Since learning about the proposal two weeks ago, Mr Bartlett and others quickly formed a campaign called Paua to the People, built a website and have hosted two public meetings involving more than 100 people.

Paua to the People campaigners Kees Meeuws and Rhys Bartlett.

Paua to the People campaigners Kees Meeuws and Rhys Bartlett. Photo: RNZ

A campaign spokesperson, former All Black Kees Meeuws, said the area should be protected for future generations.

"No one wanted to touch stinky paua when there was sewage going into the water out there but now that's cleaned up they're going 'oh, we can get our hands on that paua now'."

Paua Industry Council chairman Storm Stanley said the industry realises it did not do its homework properly and is prepared to drop the plan.

Mr Stanley said three other areas in Otago and Southland proposed for opening have not attracted the same negative reaction.