“This is the country of cowboys”: the marine reserve “looted” since the departure of the forest ranger
Te Angiangi Marine Reserve, located between Blackhead and Aramoana beaches on the coast of Hawke’s Bay. (File photo)
A marine reserve on the Hawke’s Bay coast that used to be a boon for pāua and crayfish stocks has been looted by poachers since the local ranger retired last year, residents say.
The Angiangi Marine Reserve, established in 1997 and covering 446 hectares between the settlements of Aramoana and Blackhead, about 30 kilometers east of Waipukurau, has helped conserve and rebuild seafood stocks on a coast frequented by legal and illegal fishermen.
For many years, Department of Conservation Ranger Rod Hansen, who lived in Blackhead, actively watched over the reserve. But last year he left the role and there hasn’t been a ranger in place since.
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One person who lives there, but does not wish to be identified, said things have “deteriorated rapidly” since Hansen left and the area “was being looted”.
“The signs that marked the reserve were removed and destroyed about 2-3 months ago. Some people may not realize they’re on a reserve, but others know and fish there anyway, ”the person said.
“It’s pretty common now for people to put crayfish traps on the reserve. We contact DOC and the police, but by the time they get here the poachers are all gone. This is the land of cowboys … the Wild West.
The problems have worsened since a rahui on Waimarama, a beach in the north that has a two-year ban on taking paua, was put in place in December of last year.
DOC spokesman Brian McDonald said the department is now reactively patrolling the reserve.
“If we hear about things, we investigate them,” he said.
“We have received reports of illegal and non-compliant activities and are currently working with the MPI (Ministry of Primary Industries) and the police. There are more people using the ribs since the lockdown restrictions were relaxed. ”
The department was recruiting for a marine manager position, McDonald said.
Asked about the missing signs, he simply replied: “We are reviewing our signage throughout the marine reserve due to our marine management plan. We are also aware of occasional panel vandalism and the need to replace panels.
Ngāti Kere hapū had been “invaluable” and DOC was supporting them to exercise their kaitiakitanga as the tangata whenua of the region, he said.