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Ministry for Primary Industries v Walters [2021] NZDC 7773

Published 30 June 2022

Formal proof hearing — obstructing Fisheries officer — taking shellfish without permit — prohibited species — Fisheries Act 1996, s 229(1)(a) — Criminal Procedure Act 2011, s 124(3). Two defendants faced charges of obstructing a Fisheries Officer and of possessing more than 50 toheroa. They were alleged to have been seen gathering toheroa shellfish without a permit, and to have grabbed a bin containing the shellfish off fisheries officers who were investigating the alleged offending. The defendants had then tipped the shellfish out onto the beach and tried to cover them with sand. Having heard evidence from the fisheries officers, the Court found the obstruction charges proved. The Court also accepted the evidence of the officers that the shellfish in question were toheroa, and that the defendants had at least 150 of them. The evidence also showed that at the time of the offending, the defendants had no lawful customary right to take the toheroa. The defendants were convicted on all charges. Counsel for the Crown noted that there was a possibility they could raise the argument that the toheroa were put back. Sufficient notice would have to be given in this instance which the defendants had not done. The Court directed that notice be given to the defendants, who had made no appearance at the hearing, with the standard indications that they have been convicted, summonsing them to court for a date for sentencing and advising them that they may have a right to a re-trial. Judgment Date: 23 April 2021.