7. CLAYTON MITCHELL (NZ First) to the Minister of Conservation : What action will she take given that 768 people have signed a petition calling for shark cage diving near Stewart Island to be stopped immediately and permanently?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY (Minister of Conservation): As the Minister of Conservation, I will not be taking any action as a result of the petition, but what I will be doing, as I have said from the start, is paying very close attention to the review that the Department of Conservation now has under way. We have said from the beginning that at the end of the season we will evaluate it. That process is under way now. I will be very interested to see what has been happening. There have been no formal complaints. There may well be changes or not as a result of that review. Any changes will be widely circulated and discussed before the start of the next season in December.

Clayton Mitchell : Given the present compliance measures that the Department of Conservation has put in place to protect the sharks, how can she explain the fact that this season the sharks were still showing evidence of fresh wounds from cages?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY : This member illustrates very clearly why it is important to go with evidence and be science-based. I have seen the photographs that have been taken. There has been some injury to a dorsal fin of one shark that is not an injury that is consistent with shark cage diving. We have paid very close attention because my role in all of this as the advocate for nature is to look after the safety, in the first instance, of the sharks. There have been no reported incidents of any damage to sharks.

Clayton Mitchell : I seek leave to table an Official Information Act document dated 16 June from the Department of Conservation providing the observers’ monitoring reports of the two shark cage diving operators, Shark Dive New Zealand and Shark Experience.

Mr SPEAKER : Leave is sought to table that particular Official Information Act document. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Clayton Mitchell : Does the Minister now agree that the issuing of permits has done little to protect either the great white sharks or the people of Stewart Island who are clearly strongly opposed to shark diving operations so near to their homes?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY : As the member constantly either wilfully or ignorantly misunderstands, before the permits were put in place there was no protection whatsoever of sharks or people. Edwards Island—a place that that member does not seem to understand—is a place where there are fur seals and, therefore, it is a restricted area. It is some 8 kilometres away from any other park where swimming or recreational activities take place. So it is very important to note that—

Richard Prosser : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not sure if you are having the same difficulty, but I am having trouble even hearing the Minister’s lame excuses here.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] No, I do not need—[Interruption] Order! I do not need assistance. If the member would mind having a word with one or two in his own caucus, that would lessen the background noise considerably, and then he would be able to hear the answer.

Chris Hipkins : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Points of order are heard in silence.

Chris Hipkins : It is a fair point—there was a lot of noise during that particular answer, but what I would like you to consider is the beginning of the Minister’s answer, where she immediately insulted the questioner, which is going to lead to disorder in the House.

Mr SPEAKER : And that is a very fair point. The way the question was answered was not helpful to the order of the House. The Minister is capable of giving a more direct answer without deliberately attacking any member in this House, and I would be grateful if she would do that in the future. But that is still no excuse for the level of noise that was coming—[Interruption] I am on my feet, Mr Ron Mark. That is still no excuse for the level of interjecting that was coming, making it very difficult for Mr Prosser to actually hear the answer that was given.

Ron Mark : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : I have finished with that matter.

Ron Mark : I understand that. This is something new.

Mr SPEAKER : Fresh point of order—Ron Mark.

Ron Mark : Thank you for your indulgence, but it is—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! This is hopefully going to be a fresh point of order.

Ron Mark : You are quite right; it is no excuse, but that does inflame disorder.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member will resume his seat immediately. He is very lucky that I am allowing him to stay. I asked him whether it was a fresh point of order. It added no contribution of any value whatsoever, and the member has a consistent habit of doing that. My patience will not last much longer with that member if he continues to do it.

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