1491968231158 - Gisborne lobster poacher Sythe Harris pleads guilty in Alexandra court

Gisborne lobster poacher Sythe Harris pleads guilty in Alexandra court

A former Gisborne man turned up to court voluntarily after he learning he was wanted for stealing 31 spiny rock lobster from a marine reserve more than two years ago.

In the Alexandra District Court on Wednesday, Sythe Harris, 26, shearer, of Alexandra, pleaded guilty to a joint charge of taking rock lobster from the Te Tapuwae O Rongokako Marine Reserve in Gisborne on November 20, 2014.

Of the 31 stolen, nine were undersized and one was a soft shell, Ministry for Primary Industries lawyer Kieran Tohill said.

When Primary Industries officials searched Harris’ Toyota Hilux following reports about suspicious behaviour that evening, a pipe was also found, which Harris admitted was used to smoke methamphetamine, the police summary of facts said.

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Harris also told officials the lobster were taken “for a feed”, the facts said.

On Wednesday he faced a separate charge of possessing the pipe and another of driving while disqualified, from an incident in Auckland on March 23 last year.

Tohill said that over a three hour period that evening, Harris and associate Julian William Manuel, of Gisborne, were seen using lights in the marine reserve, which led to reports from the public. 

Counsel for Harris, Liam Collins, said Harris moved to Alexandra with his partner a year ago and was “obviously keeping his head down and his nose clean” as he had not come to police attention in that time.

He moved down to get away from previous dealings with methamphetamine, Collins said.

After learning of a warrant for his arrest, Harris had earlier voluntarily presented himself at court in Alexandra to face up to the charges, Collins said. 

Judge Michael Crosbie said marine reserves were a “critical” part of New Zealand and made up less than 1 per cent of the country’s fishing area.

“Marine Reserves are there for a purpose and there are plenty of legitimate places to get crays.

“It’s cheating. You’re only allowed to take what you’re entitled to.

“I need to denounce your conduct.”

Harris also need to “work out a way” to stay away from methamphetamine, he said.

Judge Crosbie sentenced Harris to 200 hours’ community work plus court costs of $130 on the Marine Reserves Act charge and the possession of a pipe for smoking methamphetamine charge.

He also ordered destruction of the pipe.

On the driving charge, Harris was disqualified for six months and ordered to pay an additional $130 in court costs.