Setnets threatening lives at beaches

22:34, Jan 23 2013
NET DANGER: John Watson, left, and Wayne Walker at Arkles Bay.

Swimmers who have become entangled in setnets at popular Auckland beaches are lucky not to have died, Auckland Councilor Wayne Walker says.

''The number of swimmers who've been entangled - some lucky not to have died - underlines the fact that we don't need the extra hazard of these nets,'' Walker said.

Walker represents the council's Albany ward and chairs its environmental forum and is keen to see if the council can get rid of the nets.

Rodney Times editor Geoff Dobson and his family - among thousands who flocked to Te Haruhi Bay at Shakespear Regional Park on New Year's Day - were appalled to see three setnets in the shallows where children were playing.

''One was removed when the tide went out but the others were left there all day,'' Dobson said.

''One parallel to the beach was potentially dangerous but the other, set at right angles to the beach, was far worse.

''The current kept dragging us towards it and, although we struggled, we couldn't avoid getting snared. So were some other swimmers and they were really upset.''

Dobson and adult son Eli had a similar experience at Te Haruhi Bay last year while snorkelling to the wreck of the SS Wainui.

''We swam straight into a net because there was no way we could see it. It's just as well we're reasonably good swimmers because we could have been in big trouble.

''It's disgraceful that this practice - almost inviting tragedies - is allowed to continue on our busy holiday beaches.''

Omaha Beach is among those with a setnet problem.

Rodney's Insite Security general manager Chris Martin said two nets which he took from the shallows were collected, at his request, by fisheries officers employed by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI).

He also arranged for the Omaha Surf Club to pick up a third containing dead or dying fish, drifting about 150 metres offshore. 

''In addition to still catching more fish, it was a potential hazard for vessels,'' Martin said.

Ministry compliance manager North Harbour Deirdre Hilditch said people should think twice before removing nets that did not belong to them.

''MPI does not encourage this sort of action as it could lead to charges being pressed by the setnet owner through the police,'' she said.

She said the ministry was not responsible for boat or swimmer safety.

The council is reviewing public bylaws and people are invited to make submissions between February 15 and March 15 online via its website.

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