A New Zealand shark cage diving operation which has been involved in a long-running legal struggle is celebrating after getting a ban on their business overturned in the Supreme Court.
Stewart Island-based Shark Dive New Zealand and Shark Experience had been fighting tooth and nail since the Court of Appeal ruled in September last year that cage diving was an offence under the Wildlife Act.
The legal battle was between Stewart Island paua divers, the Department of Conservation and two companies – Shark Dive New Zealand and Shark Experience.
The latter offers the chance to be in a cage and see great white sharks in their natural environment. The apex predators are known to congregate in Foveaux Strait, and while they are tempted further by the use of chum and bait, Shark Experience categorically states that they follow a code of practice prepared by shark cage divers and adopted by the Director-General of Conservation, which means they don’t pursue the sharks or do anything that might cause them harm.
Shark Experience had appealed the Court of Appeal declaration that cage diving was an offence, explaining that because of that decision, it had ceased offering shark cage diving adventures, but that even if the interpretation adopted by the Court of Appeal was correct, it was wrong to find that shark cage diving fell within that interpretation, or to issue a declaration in such broad terms.
The long-running legal battle began in the High Court when PauaMAC5 – which represents commercial pāua quota owners operating in the same area – issued proceedings claiming shark cage-diving was an offence because it amounted to ‘hunting or killing’ great
white sharks. The group also said it feared its divers’ lives were being put in danger by the operation of shark cage diving businesses.
PauaMAC5 took the case to the Court of Appeal, which then made its ruling and declaration, but this latest chapter saw the Supreme Court state ‘the Court of Appeal’s declaration that ‘shark cage diving is an offence under s 63A Wildlife Act 1953’ is set aside’.