A skipper has been convicted and fined after a waka capsized in Whakatane, throwing crew members overboard.

Dr Clarence Takirirangi Smith had been charged under the Maritime Transport Act 1994 for putting five people in danger after the capsize in January last year.

Smith is a renowned Maori carver who has made various figures and installations around the country such as pou, pataka (raised storehouses) and waharoa (entrances).

He also has an interest in traditional navigation and has carved waka over the years.

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He received an honorary doctorate from Victoria University in 2011.

In the Wellington District Court yesterday, Smith pleaded guilty and was fined $1350.

Six men where thrown overboard when the waka capsized crossing the bar. Photo / Maritime NZ
Six men where thrown overboard when the waka capsized crossing the bar. Photo / Maritime NZ

The court heard Smith had been skippering an 11m catamaran waka with five others on January 22, 2016.

The vessel operated under sail but was also powered by two 20-horsepower outboard engines.

The crew was entering Whakatane Harbour at high tide when it capsized, throwing six men overboard.

A day before, the harbourmaster had ruled the bar "unworkable''. There had been a 2m swell when the waka tried to cross the bar.

Members of the public helped to retrieve the men, and one was rescued by the Coastguard.

Maritime NZ spokesman Pelin Davison said the sentence was a timely reminder for skippers to check weather conditions, know the rules on the water and if in doubt, don't cross the bar.

"Bar crossings are notoriously dangerous. If in doubt, do not cross and always check with the harbourmaster or Coastguard for local conditions before getting anywhere near the swells around river and harbour entrances.''