Dunedin shark-nets film 'positive environmental story'

Film-makers Nicole Schafer and Andrew Scott stand beside the St Clair Beach shark bell. Photo by...
Film-makers Nicole Schafer and Andrew Scott stand beside the St Clair Beach shark bell. Photo by Peter McIntosh.

Tangled Waters documents the five attacks in Dunedin, between 1964 and 1973, which included three fatalities, and the decision to install shark nets in Dunedin waters.

Film-makers and University of Otago science communication students Nicole Schafer and Andrew Scott (both 27) said it was an important film to make.

"It's a great local story that's never been fully told before," Ms Schafer said.

"It was a unique situation having shark netting. No-one else in New Zealand has had shark nets.

"It's also a great story, because we got the ending we wanted. It's a positive environmental story, which is very unusual."

The 25-minute documentary includes interviews with Dunedin city councillors during the voting decision to remove the nets.

The DCC, led by Crs Richard Thomson, Lee Vandervis and Kate Wilson, began investigating the shark net programme after an Otago Daily Times feature in January condemned the practice of net-setting.

The article revealed the nets had caught no great white sharks in 40 years, but had killed more than 700 non-target species.

Councillors subsequently voted 9-3 in favour of removing the $38,000 annual funding for the nets in the 2011-12 annual plan.

Ms Schafer and Mr Scott also interviewed shark attack survivor Barry Watkins, who was attacked at St Clair Beach in 1971, surfers and beach-goers, and filmed great white sharks in their natural habitat at Stewart Island.

The former St Kilda Surf Life Saving Club members said they wanted to make the film "because we're conservationists and the shark nets were wrong".

"It was the St Kilda Surf Life Saving Club that raised the funds for the original nets after the first two attacks in the 1960s, before they were later taken over by the DCC," Mr Scott said.

"I hope the film teaches people something about the history of a neglected wildlife in New Zealand.
We should be proud, like we are with kiwis and albatross, of sharks as well. We should take them to our hearts. They are so important to the environment. We need them for the eco-system to operate."

The students also gathered thousands of signatures at the Otago Farmers Market for a petition opposing the shark nets.

"Once people got all the facts, they were agreeing with us," Ms Schafer said.

"Everyone responded really well and was reasonable and wanted to discuss it. People think great whites are in Australia or South Africa, but New Zealand is a global hot spot for these animals."

There had already been interest in the film from Australia, she said.

Tangled Waters will premiere at the 2011 Science Teller festival, at 6.30pm today at the Regent Theatre.



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