Shark-net debate delayed

An attempt by Cr Lee Vandervis to signal the council would reconsider using shark nets off Dunedin beaches was deflected at yesterday's Dunedin City Council community development committee meeting.

Cr Vandervis was about to put forward a recommendation signalling the council's intention to review the use of nets, which would save about $40,000 each year.

However, committee chairman Cr Bill Acklin said the time to deliberate over the nets' future would come during consideration of the 2011-12 draft annual plan.

The draft plan containing funding for the nets for another year had already been released for consultation, Cr Acklin said.

Instead, at Cr Paul Hudson's suggestion, councillors voted for a resolution encouraging members of the public to make submissions on the nets.

The manoeuvring came after Crs Kate Wilson, Richard Thomson and Lee Vandervis last month argued the nets were a waste of money and should be scrapped.

The 100m-long nets were positioned off St Kilda, St Clair and Brighton Beaches each summer, after five attacks, three of them fatal, in the space of seven years in the 1960s and '70s.

Their move was defeated by a 6-7 vote at last month's meeting, amid opposition from Crs Syd Brown and Neil Collins, who supported the nets' use.

Cr Thomson later asked for a report on the appropriateness of the nets, prepared by council parks and reserves team leader Martin Thompson, which was presented to yesterday's meeting.

The report said incomplete records dating back to 1977 showed 712 sharks had been caught in the nets, although there was no records of now-protected white pointers having been caught.

Department of Conservation advice was nets were a way of fishing for sharks, rather than providing a barrier between sharks and swimmers, and catch numbers showed the nets were "not that effective" at fishing, the report said.

Council community and recreation services manager Mick Reece told yesterday's meeting three seven-gill sharks had been caught since Christmas, one 2.5m long that contained "most of a seal".

"They ... are still killing sharks," Mr Reece said.

Earlier yesterday, two speakers at the council's public forum detailed their opposition to the shark nets.

Great White Southern Dive co-owner Peter Scott told the forum the nets gave swimmers a false sense of security, while New Zealand Marine Studies Centre senior aquarist Matthew Crane presented statistics that showed there had been just 44 unprovoked shark attacks in New Zealand since 1882, eight of them fatal.

The speakers were also filmed as part of a thesis project by Nicole Schafer - a masters student at the University of Otago Centre for Science Communication - and fellow student Andrew Scott.

Their project aimed to educate people about shark nets, and the film would be released at the science communication premiere in Dunedin in November.

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