Pāua rescuers say govt has told them to stop

9:12 am on 23 November 2016

A group of volunteers say they are saving earthquake-displaced pāua, but the government says they are doing more harm than good.

The self-proclaimed Pāua Relocation Team said they had been trying to save tens of thousands of shellfish lifted out of the water by the Kaikōura earthquake.

But they had been stopped from shifting paua back into the water since the government announced a three-month pāua harvesting ban on Monday.

The Ministry of Primary Industries is trying to decide how to handle the situation.

Christchurch resident Mike Vincent has visited Kaikōura to collect pāua since he was 14.

When he heard about them being exposed from the seabed rising, he wanted to act - fast.

"I let my heart lead me.

"This is wrong leaving them there to die. We're not taking pāua out of the water so I can't see what we're doing wrong."

Paua Relocation Team - Mike Vincent

Mike Vincent of the Paua Relocation Team: "My heart led me." Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Mr Vincent and his friend, Martin Martene, ran from Goose Bay, through the abandoned train tunnels.

"We've had support from so many people we know.

"If this gets the green light from the ministry we will have hundreds of people down here helping us get the pāua into the water."

Mr Vincent said the local iwi backed him. Many sent family from around the South Island to help.

"We have been back to spots where we've moved the pāua. They are creating new beds and surviving. We just want to show the officials that what we're doing is working."

The Ministry for Primary Industries sent a scientist yesterday to look at the site where the group was working.

Paua held by Mike Vincent.

Mike Vincent holds a paua shell. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Deputy director-general Ben Dalton said the ministry advised Mr Vincent and his group they were doing more harm than good.

Four scientists advised the ministry that any pāua in the inter tidal zone should be left where they were.

"We were told by Tuesday afternoon anything above the high tide mark will be dead or dying."

Mr Dalton said the ministry had not stopped the group from saving the pāua - they voluntarily stopped their activities on Monday.

"After seeing them in action, I don't doubt for a minute that they have the best of intention. They have a real desire to do something about pāua.

"But what is not clear at the moment is whether their activities are helping or harming the future of the pāua stocks down here," Mr Dalton said.

Deputy Director-General of Ministry of Primary Industries, Ben Dalton.

Ministry of Primary Industries deputy director-general Ben Dalton. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

"We have had talks with them over the last two days which have been very amicable.

"We'll take a look at what the scientist says and evaluate the situation from there," Mr Dalton said.

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