Fight to save Kaikōura's pāua draws to an end

By Heeni Brown

The fight to save Kaikōura's pāua is drawing to an end. Thousands of pāua are still stranded along the Kaikōura coastline following last month's South Island earthquake. Today, lead volunteer pāua rescuer Mike Vincent told Native Affairs reporter Oriini Kaipara their work will end tomorrow.

It's a receding tide on this labour of love.

Kaikōura Pāua Rescue Crew spokesperson Mike Vincent says, “I mean it's sad but, you know, you get to a point with anything in life where you can only do so much and I think we've saved what we can."

Over the span of three weeks, volunteers have saved 75 tonnes of pāua from Papatea to Oaro, just three kilometres of the entire Kaikōura Coast.

"We took some footage of the pāua that we took and placed back into the water and it's still alive. It's doing well and I knew it would be," says Vincent.

Ministry of Primary Industries Compliance Manager Gary Orr says, “We're pretty confident that most of the pāua that needed human assistance to be relocated into deeper water has now been dealt with, particularly those in the areas that are safe and accessible.”

Exactly how many pāua left stranded is yet to be determined.

“There are large amounts of pāua that have been affected by the uplift of the seabed but there are still significant stocks left that we're assessing currently,” says Orr.

A strict rāhui will remain in place over summer and enforced by MPI and mana whenua.

Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura Chair Henare Manawatu says, “We've told MPI that we will support the closure. We will make sure our tangata tiaki do not issue permits to just anyone to go out and get our customary take.”

“There will be no tolerance for anybody that doesn't respect the closure because this is essential to the sustainability of that fishery,” says Orr.

Mike Vincent says his team will do one final clean-up tomorrow before they ship out.

“We've given it a good shot and I'm proud of everyone. I've made some lifelong friends.”

They'll also personally thank everyone who've supported them.