Editorial 98

Coroner calls for government intervention

An Australian coroner, Ms Pinch in her recent finding into the death of a NSW diver recommended that the NSW government regulate to control the diving industry. This is not the first time coroners have expressed their concerns as to how the dive industry self regulated itself in Australia and New Zealand.It is a challenge for the dive industry in both countries to ensure that the industry maintains its present self regulating status. The main concern for the industry, it seems to me, is that there is a very fragile framework within the industry that actually represents/speaks for the industry. In other words who does the government agencies go to, to obtain the opinion or position of the industry regarding concerns that the government may have? In New Zealand there was an organization, Dive Industry New Zealand and in Australia, Dive Australia both do not now exist.

In New Zealand there has been casual discussions amongst concerned industry members but nothing has formally been done. Most are so busy running their businesses that there is little time or energy to commit to taking formal action to create an industry organization that has the ability to represent the majority of the industry. The situation is the same in Australia.Is the dive industry ripe for the plucking by the government?

With the continuing pressure from coroners on both sides of the Tasman, for action to be taken, I fear the industry may one day wake up to a whole new world of government intervention which none of us want. The flags have been raised but who in the industry is taking notice?

Bends cases on the decline.

It is a pleasing trend to see that the number of divers being treated by the Slark Hyperbaric Unit at the Navy Hospital, Auckland are not in the high numbers of a few years ago. The number of divers that were treated for decompression sickness (DCI – bends) from the year 2000 make interesting reading: Year 2000 – 74; 2001 – 33; 2002 – 25; 2003 – 26; 2004 – 22; 2005 – 11; 2006 – 16.

I’m sure there would be vigorous debate as to why there has been a decline: better trained divers, more divers using dive computers, divers not venturing past the recommended recreational maximum depth of 18 metres for Open Water Diver and 30 metres for Advanced Diver, better dive planning and supervision of new divers, use of Nitrox, divers planning their dive and diving their plan, less people diving, weather and divers who suspect they may have the signs of DCI and treat themselves by breathing oxygen. The OSH implications of a dive operator reporting what appears to be a mild DCI case may also be a factor and divers who are too embarrassed to present themselves for checking and possible treatment. I would appreciate your comments.

Manta rays at the Poor Knights marine reserve!

Diver Tony Kelly could hardly believe his eyes as he prepared to drift down the reef edge off Oculina Point on the west coast of the southern island, Aorangi. Just below him in four to five metres of water was what appeared to be a manta ray accompanied by kingfish! He hurriedly snapped a picture as the ray departed into deeper water. He noted that the ray was approximately three metres from wing tip to wing tip and that its two front horns were not as long as the manta rays he had dived with in Western Australia. The sighting caused much excitement and debate as to the type of ray he had seen. It is not the first time that a manta ray has been seen at the Knights. Manta rays belong to the family Mobulidae and there are two


rays in New Zealand waters: The giant manta ray

(Manta birostris)

and the spine tailed devil ray

(Mobula japanica)

. These are largely confined to the top layer of the open ocean off New Zealand. Perhaps Tony saw a spine tail devil ray as these


rays are more commonly seen in New Zealand waters.



. The Poor Knights marine reserve is continually providing divers with sights that still astound visiting divers. The marine bio-mass is going nuts out there!

Minister, where are the Japanese whalers?

That is a question that anti-whaling environmental organizations, Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd would love to know. A New Zealand Air Force Orion came across and videoed the Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean’s whale sanctuary when on a patrol in search of illegal fishing boats. The Minister of Conservation, the Hon. Chris Carter released the footage of the Japanese harpooning whales. Which is a first. Good on him for doing so! The Minister, who is New Zealand’s representative at the annual International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting, and even though he supports Greenpeace’s (see page 43) ultimate goal of no whaling, will not make public the location that the Orion came across the whalers.

He is concerned that any confrontation between the whalers and the anti-whaling groups may result in an accident and even death of a protestor. The Minister is caught between a rock and a hard place! While he is very committed about preventing the Japanese and other whaling nations such as Greenland and Norway from continuing their whaling operations he cannot, I guess, be seen to be giving the anti-whaling groups information that the government has obtained – not good for our exports I would suggest! But is the New Zealand government being too PC? On one hand they support Greenpeace and on the other they withhold information that would allow Greenpeace to locate the whaling fleet quickly and inevitably save the lives of some whales.

It all seems a little too much pussy footing around.

Minister, sometimes you have to put into action what you appear to stand for in the public’s eye. At least then the Japanese would take you and the New Zealand Government seriously as representing an anti-whaling nation.

Time for some action – on the sea!

Next issue we hope to bring our readers up close and personal with the whalers and the crimson ocean. Can you believe it is 2007 and the killing continues?

The scallops are fat and yummy and you only have a few days to legally enjoy a few (14 Feb main areas close) so get out there and enjoy – the water is warm – believe me!

We wish all our readers and advertisers a healthy and successful 2007.

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