Website of the Year

The Road Ahead: Covid takes big bite out of shark diving firm

Shark Experience tourism operator Mike Haines has battled to keep his business on the water. Photo / Mike Scott

The cage-diving business began when a film crew from the United Kingdom hired Mike Haines and his boat to film sharks. Around that time, the white pointer had become a protected species. The Department of Conservation had surveyed the area, revealing it as a significant part of the white pointer's annual migration. Haines, like anyone diving out of Bluff, knew they were there. He recalls the exhilaration of his own first experience with a white pointer. "You don't expect it. You hear of sharks out there but you don't expect to run into them. It's a big ocean. "I was just diving with a friend... for crayfish and a shark about 12-13 foot came up to me and he came within about less than a metre. "And there I was basically standing on the bottom with a rock behind me and a catch bag full of crayfish. You've got to stand still, especially if you've got nowhere to go."

As New Zealand prepares for an historic election in the worldwide grip of Covid-19, reporter David Fisher and visual journalist Mike Scott spent three weeks on the road to find out what we're thinking. They talked to Mike Haines about diving with sharks and fighting in the courts and against an unseen pandemic to keep his business alive.