3 Dec 2015

Great white worries for Stewart Island

6:36 pm on 3 December 2015

The government is being urged to ban shark cage diving near Stewart Island before someone is maimed or killed by a great white.

A petition signed by 768 people, was presented to Parliament today and calls for an immediate and permanent stop to the venture.

Cage diving takes place 3.8 nautical miles from the island but petitioners say that is not good enough.

Great White Shark off Stewart Island.

Great White Shark off Stewart Island. Photo: SUPPLIED

Ken McAnergney, who has a holiday home on Stewart Island, told MPs the island's waters were no longer safe.

"My grandchildren came to the island with me last Easter. They asked to go in the water and I said no... I'm sorry to be so emotional, but it's frightening."

Mr McAnergney said the sharks' behaviour had changed because cage dive companies had used bait to attract the animals.

The sharks now hung around the boats like "ravenous dogs".

New Zealand First MP Clayton Mitchell also feared for the islanders' safety.

"Dare I say it, I'd hate for Stewart Island to become Amity Island and baiting sharks... to encourage them to be around humans is only asking for trouble," he said.

Department of Conservation (DoC) chief science advisor Ken Hughey said it had listened to the community and had already tightened permit conditions, including the use of bait and berley, and increased its monitoring of operators.

An international review by Australian Crown scientific body CSIRO of cage diving indicated there was no evidence it increased the risk to the public.

Dr Hughey said DoC had reviewed the best scientific information available and he believed it had made a wise decision based on that evidence.

However the department was due to review cage diving next year and it would remain open to listening to the community, he said.

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