11 Oct 2019

Shark cage diving business gets boost from court ruling

5:57 pm on 11 October 2019

A Bluff tourism operator says the Supreme Court's decision that shark cage diving is legal has saved his business from closing down.

Cage diving with Great White shark coming to you on deep blue ocean background

A business owner says international tourists visit New Zealand in the hope of seeing great white sharks. Photo: 123RF

Mike Haines, owner-operator of Shark Experience, successfully asked the Supreme Court to overturn a decision by the Court of Appeal that shark cage diving was an offence under the Wildlife Act 1953.

Mr Haines says the decision means he can again use enticements to ensure the sharks come to the boats, which means he can advertise that people will see a great white shark.

"If we'd got a negative outcome from the court this morning the likelihood is that we were not going to continue. It just wasn't viable and of course you can't advertise for people to go out to look at fish, it just doesn't cut it."

Mr Haines said he did think the government should look at the Wildlife Act and bring it up to date.

"It is an old act, and when they came up with it in the 1950s there was no thought that great whites would be protected, and part of the tourism industry."

The Court of Appeal had said that shark cage diving was, for the purposes of the Act, to "hunt or kill" the great white shark, and therefore illegal.

Representatives of commercial paua quota owners, PauaMAC5, told the Supreme Court that they fear the lives of its divers were being put in danger by the operation of shark cage diving businesses in their place of work.

It said the use of berley and bait attracted greater numbers of sharks to the area and produces more aggressive behaviour.

Mr Haines says he doesn't believe putting food in the water to attract the sharks makes it any more dangerous for other people using the ocean.