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Setnets threatening family safety

LES WATKINS
Last updated 05:00 15/01/2013
Chris Martin

NET CAPTURE: Chris Martin was told not to touch nets when he delivered retrieved nets to fisheries officers.

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POLICE were unaware their efforts to ease holiday traffic chaos were sending hundreds of families to potential danger in Rodney.

Their good intentions were exposing beach-lovers to the risk of being caught in setnets – which have killed many creatures, including dogs and dolphins, and also trapped several humans.

Glorious weather drew visitors to bag parking spaces in Long Bay Regional Park by 6am on New Year's Day. All 4000 parks were filled before noon and nearby streets were blocked as nearly 300 vehicles queued outside for up to two hours.

Police advised latecomers to head instead for regional parks in Rodney such as Shakespear on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. They did not realise that one of Shakespear's most idyllic beaches – Te Haruhi was already occupied by setnetters.

Shakespear Regional Park is just one of Rodney's many beauty spots blighted by the proliferation of setnets which, in addition to violating the official Code of Practice, are regularly left in ways that breach the law.

Setnets are already banned at Arkles Bay where 13 swimmers were trapped in past years. But the practice is still evident at Stanmore Bay, Red Beach, Orewa and Hatfields.

The setnet problem has also plagued Omaha for about three years and has been documented by locally based Insite Security general manager Chris Martin – a former long-serving police detective in Auckland.

"A group of Polynesians often arrive just on nightfall and set nets which they leave unattended and which unquestionably create a hazard for swimmers and small craft."

"Sometimes there've been five nets but the usual is three. Most have no ownership details on the floats, as required by law, or there is false information – such as addresses which do not exist.

"They cause horrific carnage, hundreds of snapper and other fish of all sizes, so I've started dragging the illegal nets out of the shallows," he says.

Fisheries officer Justin Maxwell-McGinn and a colleague visited Mr Martin, at his suggestion, to collect two of those nets last week.

Mr Martin had also arranged for the Omaha Surf Club to retrieve a third which, having broken loose, was drifting about 150 metres offshore.

"This one contained rotting vegetation and dead or dying fish. And, in addition to catching more fish, it was a potential hazard for vessels."

Further coverage of the setnet controversy in Thursday's Rodney Times will include how those caught in nets at Shakespear Regional Park have included Rodney Times editor Geoff Dobson.

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- Rodney Times

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