Three people have pleaded guilty to taking marine life from inside the Te Angiangi reserve on the Central Hawke's Bay coast, with seven others charged with similar offending and due to reappear in court over the coming weeks.
Department of Conservation ranger and honorary fisheries officer Rod Hansen said yesterday the Te Angiangi reserve, the only marine reserve in Hawke's Bay, was often a magnet for offenders.
"Te Angiangi unfortunately has a very high level of offending. I think probably its Achilles heel is its accessibility. Accessibility to paua and kina is high, so I guess people can't help themselves."
Mr Hansen said the reserve is clearly signed from the turn-off near Waipawa down to the beach itself.
The signage the department had put up would make it difficult for someone to enter that reserve and claim they didn't know, he said.
Six people were called in Hastings District Court yesterday with Stuart John Graham, 33, Brian Leonard List, 58, and Kerry Laurence Townsend, 36, pleading guilty to a charge of taking marine life.
A lawyer for the Department of Conservation, Mike Bodey, said all three had been caught inside the reserve on various dates in December last year.
Graham admitted to taking 23 paua from the reserve. However, he claimed he was not aware of the boundaries of the reserve and the paua were returned alive.
His co-accused, Townsend, pleaded guilty to the same offence.
Townsend's lawyer, Richard Stone, said the pair had not been intending to take any paua and had therefore not been looking for signs on the way out to the beach.
He acknowledged that because it was a strict liability offence his client had no excuse.
Graham was ordered to serve a seven-day sentence of imprisonment concurrent with his existing term of imprisonment for unrelated offending and Townsend was ordered to pay $750 and court costs.
The third person to plead guilty, List, was caught with two cray pots 30m inside the boundary of the reserve.
A summary of facts said List acknowledged to the Department of Conservation ranger that he was aware of the reserve but said he had made a mistake when setting his pots. One of the pots contained three rock lobsters which were returned to the reserve alive.
Judge Jonathan Down acknowledged that it appeared to be a mistake rather than an intentional breach of the reserve boundaries but said there needed to be a deterrent aspect to his sentencing, for both List and the public. List was ordered to pay $600 and forfeit the two cray pots.
Mr Hansen said the rangers were very effective in catching offenders.
"We have a very good electronic surveillance on the reserve which allows us to pick up when people are offending," he said. "There are also bach communities on either side of the reserve who are quite protective of the area."
Two others pleaded not guilty to the charge yesterday in court and three had their appearances adjourned by the register - one seeking diversion and one yet to be served.