Lewis Huia


YOB: 1955
Experience: Commercial Skipper, Commercial Fisherman
Regions: Otago, Chathams, Fiordland, Stewart Island
Interview Location: Milford Sound, NZ
Interview Date: 07 February 2016
Post Date: 01 December 2017; Copyright © 2017 Lewis Huia and Steve Crawford


CRAWFORD: Where were you born and when, Lewis?

HUIA: I was born in Dunedin, in 1955.

CRAWFORD: What is the first recollection you have of spending a significant amount of time around the water? How old were you?

HUIA: Still a young one. I used to spend a lot of time going down the beaches, St. Clair, St. Kilda, Middle Beach, and also over to Tomahawk.

CRAWFORD: Your family home was within walking distance to those beaches? 

HUIA: Yes, that’s right.

CRAWFORD: What kinds of activities were you engaged in, as a young kid. when you were around the water?

HUIA: Mainly swimming, and on nice days at the saltwater pond in St. Clair. Mostly it was us running around the rocks.

CRAWFORD: Did you ever do any boarding?

HUIA: No, never.

CRAWFORD: Kicking around in a dinghy, or sailing at all?

HUIA: No. Just down the beach.

CRAWFORD: Roughly, what age did you have some independence from friends and family? Where you could go off with your mates, or on your own?

HUIA: About 13.

CRAWFORD: And with that, did you have an expanded range? Did you go to different places?

HUIA: Not really. I stayed around Dunedin, just growing up as a young teenager.

CRAWFORD: Mostly on the south coast of the [Otago] Peninsula?

HUIA: Yeah, yes.

CRAWFORD: When you were a teen, was it similar kinds of activities? Hanging around the beach, swimming, those types of things? Or did you get into anything new at that age?

HUIA: Pretty much the same. 

CRAWFORD: In terms of the amount of time as a teen that you would spend on the water, was there seasonality to it? Summer versus winter?

HUIA: More in the summer.

CRAWFORD: And during the summer, roughly how often would be down at the beach?

HUIA: Quite a lot, because we were only about a 15-minute walk from the beach.

CRAWFORD: And in the winter time, not as much?

HUIA: Not very often.

CRAWFORD: At what point did you either move out of the region, or get a full-time job? I'm looking for natural breaks in your pattern around the coast.

HUIA: I started working for one of the department stores.

CRAWFORD: What age was that, roughly?

HUIA: 16. After that, I started working construction at Otago University, building the library.

CRAWFORD: What was the next major change, in terms of the amount of time you were spending on the water?

HUIA: Years later. I started going out with a girl from Stewart Island. When I got down there on holiday. And her brother was a fisherman.

CRAWFORD: What year was this, roughly?

HUIA: 1986.

CRAWFORD: How frequently would you been down to Stewart Island? once a year, few times a year?

HUIA: Actually, before that, I was in the territorial's Army, and my first visit was with the Army down to Stewart Island on the old Wairua - we crossed on the old ferry to Stewart Island on an exercise. And after that is when I was going out with that girl from Stewart Island. We went down there for holidays during Christmas. When I went to Stewart Island, I built up an interest in the marine industry. Went back to Dunedin, and enrolled in a fishing-maritime foundation course at the Otago Polytech.

CRAWFORD: Roughly what year was that?

HUIA: It would have been 1986.

CRAWFORD: That was definitely one of those natural break points. You decided that you had an interest working in a marine environment. Specifically, fisheries?

HUIA: I took the foundation course, and I was interested in anything that involved the marine industry. Basically, fishing was the easiest way to get to sea.

CRAWFORD: What did you do when you got your certification?

HUIA: I actually won a scholarship, so I ended up getting offered a position working in commercial fishing on a deep-sea trawler, as a training deckhand.

CRAWFORD: Where was that based?

HUIA: Dunedin.

CRAWFORD: What size of vessel was that?

HUIA: It was a very large ship, there were two of them. 

CRAWFORD: 100 meters length?

HUIA: Yeah.

CRAWFORD: And this was deepsea offshore fishing, as in dozens or hundreds of nautical miles offshore?

HUIA: Yeah.

CRAWFORD: And by 'deep' we are talking about hundreds of meters?

HUIA: I think they used to fish about 1000 meters, 2000 meters. The patrol area was up and down the Chathams, on the northern rise and the southern rise.

CRAWFORD: Did you ever dock in the Chatham’s?

HUIA: No. We unloaded our fish in Dunedin, at the factory.

CRAWFORD: How long did you have that job for?

HUIA: Long enough so I could get my Qualified Fishing Deckhand, which was probably about a year.

CRAWFORD: So, there's Foundation, then Deckhand, on the way to getting your Skipper's certificate?

HUIA: That's right.

CRAWFORD: When did you get that Deckhand certification?

HUIA: 1988.

CRAWFORD: What did you do with it?

HUIA: Then I went inshore fishing. I got a job, there was a boat leaving for the Chathams, so I was offered a senior deckhand job on that.

CRAWFORD: What kind of vessel was that? 

HUIA: Inshore fishing vessel.

CRAWFORD: Roughly how long?

HUIA: She would have been about 60 feet.

CRAWFORD: What kind of fishery?

HUIA: Finfish, trawling.

CRAWFORD: Bottom trawling, deep-water?

HUIA: Yeah.

CRAWFORD: You’d be gone for weeks at a time then, I presume?

HUIA: At the Chathams, yes. A couple of months on, maybe couple of weeks off, something like that.

CRAWFORD: Was that a seasonal thing, summer, winter?

HUIA: No, actually it was supposed to be a permanent thing. But it did not quite work out that way.

CRAWFORD: When did you leave that job?

HUIA: Probably about six months later.

CRAWFORD: And where did you go?

HUIA: Then I came back to New Zealand, and I worked down in Stewart Island for my girlfriend’s brother.

CRAWFORD: Was it a relocation? Were you down working at Stewart Island for an extended period of time?

HUIA: Three months, I think it was.

CRAWFORD: What type of work were you doing there?

HUIA: Crayfishing and Pāua.

CRAWFORD: Was this based at Halfmoon Bay?

HUIA: No, Thule.

CRAWFORD: Pardon me?

HUIA: Thule Bay, next to Golden Bay.

CRAWFORD: So, a place on Paterson Inlet

HUIA: Yeah.

CRAWFORD: Day-fishing? Overnight trips.

HUIA: Yeah, day-fishing. We would sometimes anchor up overnight.

CRAWFORD: When you were fishing at Stewart Island, what year was that, roughly?

HUIA: 1989, I suppose.

CRAWFORD: What regions of Stewart Island would you fish?

HUIA: Mainly around Ruggedy and Codfish. But if we were doing Pāua we could go right down to South Cape.

CRAWFORD: How long did you have that job for?

HUIA: Only about three months.

CRAWFORD: And then what?

HUIA: Then I came back to Dunedin, and I ended up working on a scallop boat, South Sea Scallops.

CRAWFORD: Out of Port Chalmers?

HUIA: Yeah.

CRAWFORD: Where were the scallop grounds?

HUIA: Just off the trenches ... two trenches just straight out from the light, actually.

CRAWFORD: Roughly how many miles offshore?

HUIA: Right on the edge, right at the edge of the dropoff.

CRAWFORD: The continental slope?

HUIA: Yeah.

CRAWFORD: How long did you have that job?

HUIA: Quite a while, because I was working in a factory as well. It was for the guy I worked for at the Chathams, actually. Because he asked me if I wanted to go fishing.

CRAWFORD: How many years for that job? 

HUIA: Probably a couple of years. I used to change ... because I was in the printing trade, depending on the fishing. Because fishing wasn't terribly reliable then. So, I would flip backwards and forwards between printing and fishing.

CRAWFORD: What is the next major change in terms of the amount of time or the activities that you spent on the water?

HUIA: Actually, I was called down to the Auckland Islands

CRAWFORD: Roughly, When were you were down at the Aucklands? 

HUIA: Probably about 1990 I was on a charter trip. A guy rung me up, he needed someone with a New Zealand Coastal Master's Certification. I was on vessel called the [Ogawley], it's a sailing ketch. We took scientists and the Department of Conservation [DOC] down there. A scientist [Natalie Patenui], she was from the Auckland University, School of Biological Sciences. They were studying the Southern Right Whale, and the DOC were tagging the Hooker’s Sea Lions.

CRAWFORD: How long was that trip for?

HUIA: It was for two weeks, I think.

CRAWFORD: So, you had some experience, not just with the Auckland Islands, but also directly with Science people who were doing research there. You spent time with them, and you picked up knowledge from them?

HUIA: That's right. Because what we were doing was, they were taking DNA samples, plugs from the Southern Right Whales. It was in Port Ross, round the end of the island.

CRAWFORD: When was that, roughly? Mid-1990s?

HUIA: Yeah, it probably would have been. I'd need to look at the tickets - it's all in the dates from the tickets.

CRAWFORD: We just need approximate - just a general sense of sequence, and roughly when things happened. What was the next big change in your experience on the water? 

HUIA: Well, I've also sailed around the top of the Australian on the [Ogawley]. We sailed around with the [TVNZ] Natural History Unit.

CRAWFORD: The documentary people?

HUIA: Yeah. We took them around the top of Australia, and we were diving for footage for a documentary called 'Menace of the Sea.' That was around the top from Townsville around to Darwin, with stops along the way.

CRAWFORD: What kind of ‘menaces’ were they documenting?

HUIA: Anything we could come across as we were diving. Tiger Sharks, Hammerheads, anything - all the 'nasty' stuff they can find off the coast of Australia. It was basically everything from Cone Snails to Stonefish, Crocodiles ...

CRAWFORD: How long did that trip take?

HUIA: It was very short. Basically, they were just getting library footage. But the vessel, the primary objective was going up to [Ashmore Reef], and they were doing a documentary on Seasnakes. And then I left the boat in Darwin, and I came back here. Then I ended up in Milford Sound.

CRAWFORD: When did you actually get your Skipper's ticket?

HUIA: 1991.

CRAWFORD: You already had it by the time you went off to Australia?

HUIA: Yeah. I had it when I went there.

CRAWFORD: And when you came back, that's when you relocated to Milford Sound? 

HUIA: Yeah. 1996. That's one date I definitely know. I got a position here as a Harbour Controller.

CRAWFORD: How long were you Harbour Controller for?

HUIA: It was about six months or something. And then I applied for a position with Red Boats, Southern Discoveries. Then I left in 2001, and went overseas to Australia.

CRAWFORD: Before you left for Australia, were you a Skipper here for Southern Discoveries?

HUIA: Yeah, for three years.

CRAWFORD: How long did you spent working in Australia?

HUIA: Just about a year. I also got Master Class 5 Australian, Skipper Grade 3 Australian, and Marine Engine Drivers Class 2.

CRAWFORD: And then what?

HUIA: I came back to work for Real Journeys on Lake Te Anau, doing the Glow-worm caves.

CRAWFORD: Were you away from marine waters for that time?

HUIA: Yeah.

CRAWFORD: When did you start working again on New Zealand coastal waters?

HUIA: I left Real Journeys after two years, and then worked in Doubtful Sound on overnight cruises, based out of Deep Cove.

CRAWFORD: There is a wharf there, their vessels? Similar kind of thing, where there are overnight cruises ...

HUIA: Yeah, we used to cruise out to the Tasman Sea.

CRAWFORD: How long did you have that job for?

HUIA: About a year. And then I came back to Milford Sound.

CRAWFORD: When was that, roughly? 

HUIA: Well, I've been here ten years now, so 2005.

CRAWFORD: And the last ten here, it has been working as a Skipper for JUCY?

HUIA: I've basically been with the same company, because it started off as Cruise Milford Sound on the Adventurer. JUCY had been involved with the company for about the last five years. Then they bought their own boat, and then I worked for JUCY.

CRAWFORD: So pretty much through that period of time, even though the vessels changed, you have been doing the same kind of scenic tours here in Milford Sound for the last 10 years or so?

HUIA: That’s right.

CRAWFORD: During that decade, was there a seasonality to that work, or has it been pretty much year-round?

HUIA: Year-round.

CRAWFORD: Is there seasonality in the number of trips you take?

HUIA: During the winter, we do three cruises a day, and during the summer we do four cruises a day.

CRAWFORD: Is it seven days on and seven days off, kind of thing?

HUIA: Yes.

CRAWFORD: So, you would have been up in the thousands of Milford Sound trips over that decade?

HUIA: Yeah, that’s right.

CRAWFORD: Any other significant time spent, either to the north or south, in Fiordland?

HUIA: Well, I've been in the majority of the fiords here doing coastals.

CRAWFORD: 'Coastals' meaning when you were running vessels back and forth to Bluff

HUIA: To Bluff, to the surveyors. When I was working for Southern Discoveries, or Red Boats years ago, we used to go to Dunedin.

CRAWFORD: That was an annual thing? These coastals?

HUIA: Biannual.

CRAWFORD: You would have been generally familiar with the coastline of Fiordland, but you were also going into the sounds?

HUIA: Oh, very much so.

CRAWFORD: And that brings us up to the present, with regard to your experience around New Zealand coastal waters?

HUIA: Yeah.

Copyright © 2017 Lewis Huia and Steve Crawford