Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve
Image: DOC


A Gisborne man who repeatedly poached crayfish from a marine reserve has been sentenced to two months jail for what a judge described as deliberate night-time offending.

Date:  22 November 2023

Duke Matahiki was first observed and then apprehended by police at Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve on 8 November, when a police dog located a hidden sack of crayfish. The following day, CCTV recorded Matahiki attempting to recover the crayfish catch, which NZ Police had released back into the marine reserve.

On 6 December 2022 at about 11.30 pm, Matahiki was apprehended once again by a joint operation involving officers from DOC, Fisheries New Zealand (FNZ), and NZ Police, this time with a take of 12 kina and five crayfish, all of which were returned to the reserve by the agencies’ personnel.

Appearing in Rotorua District Court this month, Judge Cameron sentenced Matahiki to two months in prison, taking into account the aggravating features of deliberate nighttime poaching and the large amount of marine life taken.

Matt Tong, DOC’s Gisborne Operations Manager says DOC is grateful for the collaboration between agencies that led to the prosecution against Matahiki and a successful court outcome.

“The sentence is one of the strongest we’ve seen, and it sends a clear message; don’t poach from a marine reserve.

“We cannot overstate our appreciation for the work of NZ Police and FNZ Fisheries Officers. Cooperation with them by our own dedicated staff, plays an integral role in helping to protect our marine reserves from events such as this.”

Niamh Murphy, FNZ Principal Adviser Fisheries Compliance says marine reserves are an important tool to protect unique costal habitats and marine life and should be respected.

“This sentencing is a great result for DOC and highlights the excellent collaboration between DOC, NZ Police, and FNZ. It serves as a good reminder to anyone considering fishing in a marine reserve, they will face the consequences.”

Ngāti Konohi and DOC were joint applicants for Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve in 1999, which has been in place for 22 years. Located 16 km northeast of Gisborne, it is a living classroom for the children of Gisborne.

Under the Marine Reserves Act 1971, it is illegal to take any marine life from a marine reserve. Offending in this way is punishable by up to three months imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offending.

Background information

Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve is home to eight different marine habitats including inshore reef, rocky intertidal platforms, and sediment flats, and covers over 2,400 hectares of coastline and its marine life.

MPI and DOC continue to take a zero-tolerance approach towards people who poach from the reserve.


For media enquiries contact:

Email: media@doc.govt.nz

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