Video: Surfers worried by protest boats

Surfers and surf life-savers say the actions of the driver of a boat which they say did ''donuts'' within metres of surfers at St Clair on Saturday were inappropriate and risky, but the fisherman involved says he did nothing wrong.

Surf life-savers speak to fishermen sitting off St Clair during an anti-drilling protest at the...
Surf life-savers speak to fishermen sitting off St Clair during an anti-drilling protest at the weekend. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Two boats, a 14m commercial fishing vessel and a smaller pleasure boat, both draped with banners from pro-drilling group ProGas Otago, sat just off St Clair Beach while an anti-drilling protest was held on the beach.

The Otago Surfing Championships and Otago Surf Life Saving Championships were also being held nearby.

Witnesses saw surf life-savers speak to the men on the boats, the larger of which was shortly afterwards seen doing what witnesses described as ''donuts'' in the water.

The surf life-savers spoke with the fishermen again, and the boat left at speed minutes later.

When contacted, Grant Godbaz, secretary of the South Coast Boardriders Association, which was hosting the Otago Surfing Championships, said the incident was a ''recipe for disaster''.

He said the boat did its turns within about 20m of surfers, who were genuinely concerned for their safety.

He was not sure if what the boat did was legal. St Clair Surf Life Saving Club president Antony Mason said surf life-savers had spoken with the fishermen because of concerns about the safety of people in the water.

Neither group, however, was going to take the matter further, as the boat left without further incident.

A spokesman from Edmonds Fishing, which owns the bigger boat, Juggernaut, said only a board used to fillet fish on the other boat was rinsed into the sea and no guts were thrown overboard.

The man, who did not want to be named, denied he had done ''donuts'' and had no other comment other than that he was an experienced fisherman and had not done anything unsafe.

Andrew Whiley, a Dunedin city councillor and ProGas Otago spokesman, said he was disturbed to hear about the concerns of the surfers.

The aim of the pro-gas presence at the protest had been to deliver a simple message in a non-confrontational way, he said.

He was there, but had not seen the whole incident.

He said the fishermen were associates of a member of the group.

He was satisfied they would not have done anything that would have risked their commercial reputations, but if they were to participate in any action for ProGas again they would be asked to take a ''much more conservative approach''.

CORRECTION: No water from a board used for gutting fish was rinsed into the sea from a boat involved in Saturday's drilling protest off St Clair Beach, as reported. The gutting process, including the cleaning of boards, took place inside the boat. 


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