Big fine for recidivist paua thief

A Waitara man has been hit in the pocket after admitting plundering paua.

Valentine Edward Albert, 47, labourer of Waitara, Zeppelin Luke Watene, 27, scaffolder of New Plymouth, Tawiti Tahua, 22, unemployed of Waitara, and Taren Elizabeth Maher, 23, labourer of New Plymouth, all pleaded guilty in the New Plymouth District Court yesterday to taking 141 paua on February 1, the legal limit is 10 paua per person per day.

More than half of the paua were undersized.

The four were caught when a vehicle driven by Albert tried to avoid a fisheries checkpoint on Bayley Rd, Pungarehu.

Five sacks, with the 141 paua and 109 kina in them, were taken from their vehicle and checked by the officers.

Albert and the others all denied having anything to do with the sacks. When Albert became aggressive the fisheries officers allowed them to leave.

However, Albert took full responsibility when he appeared before Judge Allan Roberts yesterday.

Albert had previous convictions for similar poaching.

"You are making a habit of this. I can see why you need help. You are a thief. I do treat you as the ringleader," the judge said.

"I can understand why you became aggressive. You were caught going to the well once too often," the judge said.

Everyone was well aware of the law as well as the plundering of resources from reports in the newspapers, the judge said.

But fisheries officers were understaffed and could not catch everyone who chose to help themselves, the judge said.

"If you get caught again you will look at sentences that truly start to bite."

Albert was ordered to pay a $4000 fine on the two charges plus court costs.

The other three were each fined $1750 plus court costs.

Albert was also prohibited from fishing.

Taranaki Daily News