Question Time 28 April 2015 (Conservation)
10. CLAYTON MITCHELL (NZ First) to the Minister of Conservation: Is she at all concerned about the health and safety of pāua divers and other recreational water users around Stewart Island in relation to shark cage diving permits?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY (Minister of Conservation): Yes.
Clayton Mitchell: Can the Minister then tell the House on this special day, which marks 20 years since Cave Creek, whether a full health and safety risk assessment was conducted prior to the Department of Conservation’s decision to issue permits to two great white shark cage diving operations around Stewart Island; if not, why not?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: The two shark cage operators in the Stewart Island area have been operating for about 7 years. There were no restrictions whatsoever on their activities until last December, at the point when the Department of Conservation issued permits to two of those groups, with very strong stipulations as to how they should behave and conduct themselves to be eligible for those permits.
Clayton Mitchell: Does the Minister feel that the public consultation on the conditions of shark cage diving permits was predetermined, given that the submissions closed 2 days after the draft permits were released to the two operators?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: No, it was not predetermined.
Clayton Mitchell : Would the Minister consider halting great white shark cage diving operations at Stewart Island if it was proved that the safety and well-being of the people of Stewart Island and the sharks were in question, regardless of the permits; if not, why not?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: The permits have been in place since December of last year. The season, as it were, for sharks coming into our waters ends at the end of May and resumes again at the beginning of December. When the Department of Conservation issued the permits to the two people last year, it said that it would review it at the end of the season, which is what it is going to do. It will then review it again at the end of the next diving season. If there are any issues that need to be dealt with regarding the issuing of permits or regarding the safety of the great white sharks—which is why I, as the Minister of Conservation, am involved in this issue, because it is under the Wildlife Act—then those issues will be dealt with and evaluated when the reviews are done. The department signalled that from the very beginning.
Clayton Mitchell: Supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the New Zealand First allocation has been used up.
Clayton Mitchell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would ask, in light of the—
Mr SPEAKER: Could we have the point of order, please.
Clayton Mitchell: The point of order is we have just recently had a new member in the House, which would entitle us—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The adjustment will be considered by the Business Committee today and may apply from tomorrow onwards.