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DOC working to resolve shark cage issue

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 6/12/2016

The shark cage diving season traditionally starts at the beginning of December, but operators are still waiting for Department of Conservation go-ahead.

The department says it expects to decide in the next few weeks whether to reissue permits off Stewart Island.

"We're working as fast as we can," DOC southern South Island operations director Allan Munn said.

"However, the process for issuing permits is complex and has been further complicated by the legal proceedings before the High Court."

Great white sharks are a protected species and about 100 visit Foveaux Strait each year between December and June.

Shark cage diving, which involves tourists viewing sharks from a cage attached to a boat, was unregulated until DOC introduced a permit system in 2014.

However, PauaMAC5 Incorporated, which represents the southern paua industry, has gone to court to seek a declaration that DOC should consider the safety of other water users when issuing a permit.

"The department is aware that the shark cage diving operators have made bookings for the new season while they wait for new permits to be issued," Mr Munn said.

"We are working closely with the operators to ensure that the activity continues in a manner that is consistent with the terms and conditions of their previous permits."

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