Illegal paua haul was for anniversary

A man who took more than eight times the daily paua limit said he did it to impress his grandparents for their 50th anniversary.

Akuhata Charles Pirere (39) appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday on charges of taking excess paua, undersized and obstructing a fisheries officer.

The defendant was diving for the shellfish on the morning of October 9 at Warrington.

It is part of the East Otago Taiapure, with a daily limit of five paua per person.

Pirere was spotted by a fisheries officer in dive gear with a heavy-looking bag, and the official waited by the roadside to inspect his catch.

When the defendant arrived at his vehicle he denied having a bag, but then admitted he had hidden it.

As the officer checked Pirere's details, he ran off through the fields to the shore despite being ordered to stop.

He was seen picking up the bag.

When Pirere returned to his car it contained only pine cones and some dive gear.

He showed the fisheries officer his driving licence, revealing his true identity, but then left the scene.

The officer later found 41 paua, 40 of which were undersized, concealed in long grass down a bank near the sea.

At a meeting later, Pirere explained he had ''panicked'' because he was using his girlfriend's truck without her permission at the time.

''He said he felt ashamed about taking so many small paua, as he was Maori and that was not the type of person he usually was,'' a summary of facts said.

In court yesterday, defence counsel Nathan Laws said his client's illegal haul was
gathered as a bid to try to impress his grandparents for their impending 50th anniversary.

He had never breached the rules before and he was ''extremely embarrassed'', Mr Laws said.

The court heard the paua were returned to the sea.

Judge Michael Crosbie said offending like Pirere's was difficult to detect.

Paua was there for everybody to enjoy, he said, ''but only in a really measured way''.

Pirere was sentenced to 200 hours' community work and his dive equipment - including wetsuit, snorkel and knife - were forfeited.

rob.kidd@odt.co.nz

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