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Pāua poaching and other fisheries offences


Rules for amateur fishing

If you’re not fishing commercially, you’re allowed to take up to the daily limits stated in the amateur fishing regulations, see below, “Daily limits for amateur fishing”.

It’s a criminal offence to take more than those daily limits. For small amounts over the limit you may just get a warning, or you’ll be given an infringement notice (like a speeding ticket) and fined (usually $250), and you won’t get a criminal record. For larger amounts you can be charged in court. If you’re convicted you can then be fined and in some cases given a community-based sentence like community work, or even jailed in the most serious cases. You could also have your fishing gear seized and taken from you permanently, and also other property like your boat or car if you used it in committing the offence. For more information, see below, “Charges and penalties for fisheries offences”.

Māori can take more than the amateur daily limits if this is for hui or tangihanga and they’ve got written permission from a formal representative of local tangata whenua. Permission needs to come from either the kaitiaki who’ve been officially confirmed by the Ministry of Primary Industries for the particular rohe moana, or, if no-one’s been confirmed as kaitiaki, then from a representative of the local marae, rūnanga or other authority. For more details, see the chapter “A death in the family”, under “Funerals and tangihanga”.

What does “amateur fishing” mean?

Fisheries Act 1996, s 2 (“sale” definition), s 89(2)(a)

Amateur or recreational fishing means not fishing for the “purpose of sale” – but “sale” here also includes barter.

Some “fishing” falls outside these rules – for example, whitebait. On the other hand, some that you might not expect to be covered do fall within the rules – like eels and wai kōura (freshwater crayfish).

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Common crimes

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Ministry of Justice


The Ministry of Justice website has a range of pamphlets and other information on the criminal court system. You can access this information online, or you can order hardcopies of the pamphlets from:

Phone: 0800 587 847
Email: publications@justice.govt.nz

Drug Foundation


The New Zealand Drug Foundation has a large amount of information about different drugs and their effects, and about criminal offences and penalties. They also provide drug checking services.



KnowYourStuffNZ provides free information, advice, and drug checking services using a range of testing methods at events around New Zealand.

The New Zealand Needle Exchange Programme


The Needle Exchange Programme provides and collects needles for safe disposal, advice on harm reduction, and is licensed to provide drug checking services.

The Level


The Level provides free guides for people who use drugs. Click on “I’m looking for drug checking” on their website for a calendar of non-festival drug checking clinics in Aotearoa.

Ministry of Health


The Ministry of Health has information about the legal use of cannabis products for medical reasons, and which particular products have been approved. Look under “Our work / Regulation / Medicines control / Prescribing cannabis-based products”.

Ministry of Primary Industries


The MPI website has information about recreational fishing rules and customary gathering rights.

The MPI also runs an automated information line that you can text to find out about minimum sizes and daily catch limits for particular species. Just text the name of the species in your message – just “paua” for example (it doesn’t work if you spell it “pāua”) – and send it to 9889.

How to find the cases we’ve cited in this chapter

This chapter cites a number of New Zealand court decisions as legal authority for the law as we’ve stated it. If you need to look up these cases, you can look at the references for each section and search for them either online or in a law library.

When we give the case citation, we give just the unique case reference – for example, “[2012] NZHC 15”. We haven’t included the case name (which is usually in a format like “Police v Douglas” or “R v Myers”).

You’ll be able to read most of these cases on the government website Judicial Decisions Online, at forms.justice.govt.nz/jdo/Search.jsp. The case will be on that site if the citation we’ve given includes either “NZHC” (for High Court), or “NZCA” (for Court of Appeal), or “NZSC” (for Supreme Court). You’ll need to search for the case on that site by inserting the citation (for example, “[2015] NZSC 135”) in the “Neutral Citation” search field.

Cases that have “NZLR” in the citation (for “New Zealand Law Reports”) usually won’t be available online, but they are available in hard copy in some larger city public libraries, published in orange-brown volumes. For the occasional case that we’ve cited from other report series (like CRNZ, for “Criminal Reports of New Zealand”), you’d need to go to a specialist law library at a university or local Law.

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