Bags of criticism

LES WATKINS
Last updated 08:45 24/01/2013
Neil Henson
WATER HAZARDS: Neil Henson shows the sort of rubbish – a shredded net which has broken free, disintegrating sandbags used as makeshift anchors and associated garbage – he collects regularly to reduce dangers for swimmers or small craft.

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Tourists from abroad have been astonished by officialdom's laid-back reaction to the setting of illegal and potentially dangerous nets on beaches in Rodney.

"Visitors from America and Europe, as well as Australia, can hardly credit that the authorities seem to turn a blind eye to this practice," Neil Henson of Hatfields Beach says.

Mr Henson provides luxury bed-and-breakfast accommodation for international tourists on a cliff-top overlooking the beach - one of several plagued for years by such nets.

The problem moved to Hatfields and elsewhere six years ago after the former Rodney District Council passed a bylaw which banned setnets at Arkles Bay.

Mr Henson, the Hatfields action group spokesman, says there have often been as many as three nets at a time in the shallows.

He has seen boats and birds such as shags entangled in them.

"And they are unquestionably a serious danger to swimmers, particularly children," he says.

"Some of these netters use intimidation against anyone who questions what they are doing. I had my face whacked after I suggested one net was too close to the boat ramp.

"It could never have been seen by any boatie coming in after dark and could easily have caused an accident.

"This is a shameful situation which, apart from its impact on local people, is sabotaging the tourism industry. Our country is renowned for its wonderful beaches yet the authorities seem disinterested."

It's time to take a hard line on setnetters at Auckland beaches, Hibiscus and Bays Local Board member John Watson, a former Rodney district councillor, says.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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