Shark diving around Stewart Island will be under the spotlight at a public meeting tonight that is being hosted by New Zealand First.

The party is calling on a ban of the practice, saying the number of close encounters with sharks was "phenomenal".

Paua divers earlier this year appealed to Parliament to help stop the increasing threat of aggressive great white sharks.

The paua industry believes shark diving companies that operate in the coastal waters around Stewart Island are modifying the behaviour of the 100-strong great white colony by making them expect food when swimming near humans or boats.


NZ First MP Clayton Mitchell told Newstalk ZB today great whites were being seen on a daily basis by fishers in the area, saying: "And that's behavioural change."

At a meeting on the island earlier in the year, about 200 of the island's 260 residents had spoken with Mr Mitchell about stopping shark diving, he said.

"Not that they were against shark cage diving operations so much - it's where they were given the permit to operate."

Initial research had downplayed any increased risk to divers or swimmers as a result of shark tourism.

But amid increasing tension in the Stewart Island community between fishers and tourism companies, the Government last year moved to regulate the growing shark diving industry.

Operators are now required to have permits and face limits on the use of bait to attract sharks.