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Surfers and boaties under fire at Waikato surf break

Nikki Preston, NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 21 August 2018, 5:51AM
Some surfers avoid the break for fear of being targeted with abuse or worse by territorial locals. Photo / Ben Hunter
Some surfers avoid the break for fear of being targeted with abuse or worse by territorial locals. Photo / Ben Hunter

Surfers and boaties say they have been shot at, abused or had property vandalised at a remote Waikato beach, and there are fears it's only a matter of time before someone is killed.

Last week a Te Awamutu father, son and friend were shot at while surfing at Albatross Point off the Taharaoa Coast.

Other boaties and surfers have told the Herald they had been subjected to similar attacks at the location, which is only accessible by boat or private land.

The latest incident had been condemed by local police who warned "we are not in a war zone".

Last Thursday the Te Awamutu trio took jetskis from Kawhia Harbour at about 11.45am and travelled 20 minutes south to Albatross Point. They were surfing the break when gunshots stopped them in their tracks.

The first two shots sounded further away, but the third fired from bushland overlooking the water landed just metres away from where one of the group, a teenager, was surfing.

Sergeant Andy Connors of Otorohanga police said the surfers fled the area and returned to the Kawhia boat ramp uninjured, but shaken.

Kawhia's sole police officer, who patrols Taharoa, happened to be at the boat ramp and took their statements.

"He (the constable) just happened to bump into them at the boat ramp. He was the Johnny on the spot - got the details from them straight away. They were freezing cold and decidely nervous as you would be."

Another Waikato fisherman, who asked not to be named, had a similar experience earlier this year.

The man said he was sitting in his boat looking out for a friend who was free diving when someone started firing at them.

More shots were aimed at them as the friend quickly hauled himself into the boat. They sped off back towards Kawhia and reported the incident to police.

"They [locals] think they own the sea and no one else is allowed there," the fisherman said.

"There's been heaps of boats shot at out there. It's been going on for 10 years... I know guys that have actually gone and stopped on the beach there, or fished off the beach or even gone to land a boat there to go and look for some paua and they will actually get run-off the beach."

The man's wife said the situation seemed to be getting worse and she feared someone could eventually be killed.

"There could be an out-right murder and it would be buried at sea," she said.

Another long-time surfer said surfers feared for their property and wellbeing so would not go near Albatross Point, despite it being good surf break.

Because it was a sheltered spot the surf was good during big swells and south-westerly wind .

The 60-year-old said surfing the break was "invite only" and the locals did not want others surfing in their patch and crowding the area. He described it as "extreme localism".

"I think there's a hardcore of locals that surf there. They've got access via land - they can get onto the Maori land or the private land.

"I was out at Raglan in March and I was talking to a couple of guys there and they said they had an invite, but basically if I tried to paddle out there and I wasn't welcome they would just heavy you basically.

"They would punch you out - absolutely.

"If you tried to get your vehicle in there and then left your vehicle to go surfing, it wouldn't be in a very good state when you get back."

Over the years he had heard of people having their car and trailer tyres slashed, windscreen wipers wrenched off, car windows smashed and being intimidated, yelled at and harrassed.

Connors said these sort of incidents should not be tolerated and encouarged the public to come forward.

"The shot for this young boy has ended up only metres away from him and there's a massive risk for this kind of offending. It's just intolerable. We are not in a war zone."

Connors said he was aware there had been similar reports where others had been shot at - bit did not have details.

"The ocean is there for eveyone to use and fish and enjoy and for people to go to this extreme to try and keep people away from their fishing spot - it's an ocean for heaven's sake, it should be enjoyed by everyone."

Police were continuing to investigate Thursday's shooting and police and the Waitomo iwi liason officer planned to meet with locals later this week.

ON AIR: Andrew Dickens Monday Afternoons

12PM - 4PM