This surely could not be happening in New Zealand. Surfers report somebody shooting at them at a lonely point on the coast near the entrance to Kawhia Harbour last Thursday.
It seems it was not an isolated occurrence. Other surfers and divers are said to have come under fire at that point in the past and an experienced surfer in the area has told our reporter it was a case of "extreme localism" where surfing the break created by Albatross Point was by "invite only".
The Otorohanga police sergeant who confirmed the latest incident says he is aware of past reports of people being shot at in that area but did not have details. Police and their Waitomo iwi liaison officer planned to meet locals later this week in their investigation of the shots fired at a Te Awamutu man, his son and a friend, in the water last Thursday. They must find out what is going on there.
A degree of territorial protection is well known to surfers. They have their favourite spot and if they live nearby and the beach is not well known, a possessive attitude to it becomes natural. Other surfers understand this and when they are out on the waves with surfers clearly more familiar with the breaks, the visitors tend to make way when necessary. But they should never feel they have no right to be there.
Nobody privately owns the sea around New Zealand. That much was established by legislation agreed between the National and Māori parties in the previous Government that recognised customary tribal interests in foreshore and seabed. Even beaches and bays inaccessible by public road are not the private possession of their landowner and may be enjoyed by those who come by boat.
The beach at Albatross Point is in that category. The three surfers from Te Awamutu on Thursday went there on jetskis from Kawhia Harbour. They were surfing the break when they heard two shots fired, then a third shot that came from bush overlooking the water and landed a few metres from one of the teenagers. Shaken, they fled back to Kawhia where the town's sole police officer was at the boat ramp and took their statements.
Surely there was more the officer could have done at that moment. Less than 20 minutes had elapsed since the shots were fired. The officer patrols the rural district and would know those locally who own firearms. Shooting at or near people to scare them is rather more serious than damage to vehicles or even physical assaults of those not there by "invitation", which are said to have happened around Kawhia.
This is not the first time a gun has been used. A Waikato fisherman told our reporter that earlier this year he was in a boat looking out for someone free diving when shots were fired at them. More shots were fired as the diver scrambled back into the boat and they sped back to Kawhia to report the incident to the police.
This cannot be allowed to go on. One or more people who think they own the sea in that locality are not fit to own a firearm and must be disarmed without delay. They are being exceptionally foolish.