Shark cage diving operator flouts law

10:26 am on 7 December 2016

A New Zealand cage diving operator will take clients out illegally to view sharks underwater because the Department of Conservation (DOC) has stalled on issuing permits.

The country's only two operators take people to view sharks off Stewart Island, from cages attached to boats.

Cage diving with sharks

DOC hasn't decided whether to grant cage diving permits this year (file photo). Photo: AFP

The summer cage diving season is meant to start at the beginning of December, but DOC said it had not been able to decide whether to grant legal permits this year.

The department's right to regulate operations was challenged at a High Court case in October, but the court had not given its decision.

The owner-operator of Shark Dive New Zealand, Peter Scott, applied for a permit seven months ago and DOC only told him last week they were on hold.

Mr Scott said he had no choice but to risk it, and start taking clients out, because he cannot wait any longer while DOC dithers.

"We don't have a choice but to take people to sea. That's our business and we can't afford to sit around for two weeks, three weeks, a month ... who knows how long it will take them to make a decision, given how they've had since April to make one."

DOC said the situation is complex and it expected to take a few weeks more to decide on permits.

It said it was aware operators were already taking bookings and it was working closely with them to make sure they meet the terms of previous permits.

Mr Scott disputed this, saying there had been almost no consultation by DOC, and its actions had been dismal.

The only other operator, Shark Experience, would not comment.

However, Peter Scott said that operator is in the same situation and has already begun operating this season without a permit.

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