Ross Newton

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YOB: 1947
Experience: Commercial Fisherman, Spearfisherman, Scuba Diver
Regions: Otago, Fiordland, Foveaux Strait, Rakiura
Interview Location: Dunedin, NZ
Interview Date: 25 January 2016
Post Date: 08 July 2017; Copyright © 2017 Ross Newton and Steve Crawford

 

1. EXPERIENCE IN AOTEAROA/NZ COASTAL ENVIRONMENTS

CRAWFORD: Ross, you said you were born in Dunedin, and I think you said 1947?

NEWTON: That’s right.

CRAWFORD: Do you remember the age at which you first started spending a significant amount of time around the water?

NEWTON: Probably when I got to about my late teens. Round about 18 or 19.

CRAWFORD: When you were a younger lad, was it not the type of thing that your parents would spend time down at the Otago Harbour or over at St. Clair, St. Kilda, or anything like that?

NEWTON: No, though we lived at Tomahawk. And I spent a lot of time around the beach in that area, but not in the water. 

CRAWFORD: Ok. Let’s include any time around, or on, or in the water. To the extent that you would have seen things from the shore. Or even if you were high up on the peninsula looking down, that’s still part of it. 

NEWTON: Right. 

CRAWFORD: So, your family had property close to Tomahawk then?

NEWTON: That’s right. I lived there, for when I was about s6 to about 13. So, I was there about seven years. 

CRAWFORD: When you were outside, close to the water, what kinds of things were you doing?

NEWTON: Probably building play huts and fighting, and things like that. Cowboys and Indians - that sort of thing. 

CRAWFORD: Yeah, but in a region where you would have been close to visual contact with the water for much of the time?

NEWTON: Yes, yes. In fact, when I went to Tomahawk School, there’s Bird Island. You know Bird Island? 

CRAWFORD: No. 

NEWTON: It’s just off Tomahawk. Smaill's Beach, actually. 

CRAWFORD: Ok. 

NEWTON: And I remember going out there with the school, at very low tide, and doing a social study of the marine environment out there. But I don’t remember anything else about it. 

CRAWFORD: When you were playing around as a kid there, were you at sea level or above by some significant amount?

NEWTON: Probably more so at sea level. 

CRAWFORD: When you were kicking around playing huts, playing games, the ocean was right there, the surf zone was right there. Did you ever spend any significant amount of time up on the cliffs looking down?

NEWTON: Some, but not much. And part of the reason why we never ventured into the water much there, was they had the sewage outflow just to the south of that, and there was quite often sewage on the beach.

CRAWFORD: Was that raw, untreated sewage?

NEWTON: It was. 

CRAWFORD: Was it the primary discharge for the city of Dunedin?

NEWTON: Yes. 

CRAWFORD: That’s a substantial amount of nasty stuff going into the water. What do you reckon, was that approximately a kilometre away? How far?

NEWTON: Yeah, yeah. Just around the corner from the beach. Less than a kilometre.

CRAWFORD: Were you told by family or friends or teachers or whomever, that it was not safe to go swimming there?

NEWTON: No. Because just roundabout that particular time, people did used to go swimming there. The sewage never came in until I’d been there a short while. Then you used to see it on the beach, so you didn’t want to go in there anyway. 

CRAWFORD: I'm guessing that you also didn't do any fishing there either, or going out in dinghies or anything like that?

NEWTON: No. And they’ve only fixed that within the last, five years or so. 

CRAWFORD: When you say "fixed it," what do you mean?

NEWTON: Well, they run up further out. They’ve run it a way out. And the treatment’s much better as well. It needs to be broke up, whereas it used to be in lumps on the beach, you know?

CRAWFORD: Ok. Was your family living at Tomahawk all the way through until your late teens?

NEWTON: I lived there till I was 13. 

CRAWFORD: And then moved elsewhere in town?

NEWTON: Yeah, to South Dunedin. 

CRAWFORD: And when you moved to south Dunedin, did you spend much time at St. Clair or St. Kilda?

NEWTON: Probably not much. Although when I was about 15 or 16, I started doing the surf life saving club things. I was a freshwater bronze. And then I was to do my surf ones, and that’s when Les Jordan got taken by the shark then. Then I probably spent three or four years of not going near the beach. Everybody in Dunedin was probably a bit like that, I suppose.

CRAWFORD: Ok. We’ll come back to that later on in the interview but that's a natural marker in your history, at the age of about 16 - when the attack took place, and you basically didn’t spend any significant amount of time on the water?

NEWTON: That’s right. 

CRAWFORD: What was the next thing that brought you back to the coastal waters?

NEWTON: Well I was a panel-beater then. And I was fixing a car for a friend of mine, and he said he was going to do a dive course at the swimming pool up here at Moana Pool. And I said "Oh, I wouldn't mind doing that." So, I went along as well.

CRAWFORD: And you started scuba diving then, in those relatively early years?

NEWTON: Yes. 

CRAWFORD: Roughly how old were you then? 

NEWTON: I was probably about 20 by then, because I was married. 

CRAWFORD: But you didn't have any scuba background at all before that? You just went in cold?

NEWTON: Yeah. But we didn’t scuba dive. In those days, they didn’t let you scuba dive for about a year. You had to do all this snorkel stuff for about a year, before you got into scuba diving. 

CRAWFORD: Why was that?

NEWTON: I don’t know. It was probably just to get you trained, because in those days nobody had boats either. So, you used to jump off the rocks, you know?

CRAWFORD: Shore access dives?

NEWTON: Yeah. We used to dive a lot at Aramoana

CRAWFORD: Alright, let’s go back then. Once you started your scuba training, even though it was just snorkeling or free diving to begin with, was there an equal emphasis between classroom and field? Or is it all field or mostly classroom?

NEWTON: Well, they did a bit of both. You had to do this classroom stuff. Which I wasn’t very good at. They also did scuba diving as well, in the pool. 

CRAWFORD: When you were doing your free diving in the region, what were the most common places you would go?

NEWTON: Seal Point over on the peninsula here. I used to go there a lot, spearfishing. Down at Aramoana, along the Mole. I used to go out between Purakaunui and Long Beach. We used to go out there on holidays.

CRAWFORD: Anywhere over near St. Clair, St. Kilda?

NEWTON: We used to scuba dive out at Bird Island when I started scuba diving. That might have been a bit later. Probably another five years after that. Green Island. Once we started getting boats and that we’d go to places like Green Island. 

CRAWFORD: That’s probably an important break point in this as well. You were 19, 20 years old when the scuba diving training started?

NEWTON: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: Spent a fair amount of time free diving, but also doing spearfishing associated with that. When did you actually start scuba diving? 20? or 21?

NEWTON: Probably roundabout then. 

CRAWFORD: And when you started scuba diving, was it scuba diving in the same places in the peninsula region, or did you start going to new destinations?

NEWTON: We probably did go to some other destinations, where it was deeper. But we used to do quite a lot at Aramoana. Did quite a lot out at Green Island and White Island. And places like the Puddingstone and Cape Saunders. And I remember, there was a guy called Dollar Doyle here, and he had a boat and he asked me if I’d go with him and like, that was pretty special to go out in this boat. We went to Gull Rock and Co Rock out there. We went at 7 in the morning, and we were back home by about 10 o’clock. One of my mates said "Ah well, we better go to Seal Point, and go sealing for the day," as far as he was concerned. I was used to going for the whole day. He and the guy grab some crayfish, and came back home again. 

CRAWFORD: Was there a seasonality to when you were doing your diving - either free diving or scuba diving? Was it mostly in the summer, or throughout the year?

NEWTON: Mostly the summer in those days, yeah. 

CRAWFORD: Roughly how much time were you able to commit to this? Was this a day a week, kind of thing?

NEWTON: Probably, yeah. I became pretty dedicated, probably more so than a lot of other people.

CRAWFORD: And when you became more dedicated, what would it have been? Two or three days a week then?

NEWTON: No, probably still only the weekend, because I worked during the weeks. But in the summer, you now we had the long days. Often we’d go out diving after work. I’ve got a friend, who’s still a good friend of mine, Paul Young. Him and me started commercial Pāua diving as well. I remember one night, we went to a place called Summering Rock, we were dragging our fish up the hill and it was dark. We’d been out ... knocked off work, raced out there and gone diving. Nobody else used to dive out there, and I remember one day there I shot three Butterfish, or Greenbone as most people out here call them. Three of them with one shot! There was just so many fish.

CRAWFORD: With one shot?

NEWTON: Yeah [laughs].

CRAWFORD: Three fish?

NEWTON: One of them was by accident. We used to try and shoot two of them. But one of them, one must have been swimming past, and I had it. 

CRAWFORD: Roughly how old were you when this happened?

NEWTON: I would have probably been maybe 20’s -ish, I suppose. We used to dive up Moeraki and Shag Point and nice places.

CRAWFORD: The point I'm trying to make is that, when you’re diving on the weekends, you’re diving full days. Probably out early, maybe staying out late. But when you’re diving during the week days, you’re heading out a 5 o’clock or whatever, and so you’re out there towards dusk. I'll ask you more about that, later in the interview. Was there anything else that happened between your 20s and when you started doing commercial Pāua diving full time? Or were you panel beating throughout, with that same type of schedule right through your 30s as well?

NEWTON: Well, Paul Young and I become really good friends. I didn’t know him before I started diving, and he was as keen as me. We just used to walk everywhere. All over the Otago Peninsula, everywhere. We’d go everywhere. Karitane, we used to go there a lot.  

CRAWFORD: Walk - as in, that’s how you got around?

NEWTON: Yeah. Because we didn’t have a boat. But Paul was a motor mechanic. Him and me did a couple of write-offs - you know, smashed up cars?

CRAWFORD: Yeah. 

NEWTON: Did them up together. We actually did three of them, and got enough money to buy our own boat. And that’s how we got our first boat, which became a bit more adventurous.

CRAWFORD: Roughly what age were you when you got the boat?

NEWTON: We were probably ... that would have probably still been our mid 20s, About 1975.

CRAWFORD: What size boat was it?

NEWTON: It was only about a 15 foot 6. A ply-boat. And we bought a Chrysler outboard motor - they were terrible motors. 

CRAWFORD: Did you trailer it? Or did you have it at a dock?

NEWTON: We trailered it, yeah. 

CRAWFORD: You would drive to wherever you wanted to go, launch the boat. That meant that extended your range along the coast, and offshore?

NEWTON: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: Was it the case that you now started diving offshore reefs? Or places that would have been harder to get to from shore?

NEWTON: Yeah. We didn’t actually keep that boat very long. After that was about another 15-foot boat, and then I’ve had a 16-foot boat, and then I bought a 20-foot boat. So, it kind of progressed up. 

CRAWFORD: This was during your late 20s and 30s?

NEWTON: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: And was this mostly scuba diving now? Or were you still doing some free diving?

NEWTON: We did a bit of both, really. Well, when I was about 27 or 28, I went to Australia for two and a half years. I didn’t do any diving in that period. And then on the weekend straight after I got back, that first weekend I was out diving again. But I didn’t do any diving for two and a half years over there. 

CRAWFORD: Any particular reason?

NEWTON: I worked a lot. Spent a lot more time with my wife and children, I suppose. 

CRAWFORD: When you were diving, free diving or scuba diving here - before and after Australia - was it the same general locations? Or, when you got the boats were you going to different locations?

NEWTON: Same general locations, really. 

CRAWFORD: Same amount of time diving as well? Were you still panel beating throughout this?

NEWTON: Yeah.

CRAWFORD: Alright. From your early to late 30’s, did anything else change in a big way? In terms of, where or how you were on or under the water?

NEWTON: I spent probably more time with family, not so much with the guys. We used to have picnic days once a month, as well. You’d go to a place where it was good for families and that. So, I tended to go there more. My sons got really pretty keen on the water as well. Water kids, in a sense, had been born with it. And they’re Pāua divers now, as well. 

CRAWFORD: You’ve got two sons that are now commercial Pāua divers?

NEWTON: Three sons that are commercial Pāua divers. Two of them are here, and one lives up north, and he works up there. 

CRAWFORD: So, this was really a marine family? You guys were in the water a lot. 

NEWTON: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: By way of interest. Did your sons go through any kind of swimming lessons?

NEWTON: No. 

CRAWFORD: They learned from being around the water with you?

NEWTON: I guess so, yeah. 

CRAWFORD: Did they ever go through surf life saving, or anything like that?

NEWTON: Well, my middle son, he was what they call a Nipper at the surf club as St. Kilda. We used to live not far from there, and he got into surfing and then his two brothers got into surfing as well. But Steven and Jason, they basically have been doing all the diving now. I haven’t done any for about a year or more. 

CRAWFORD: Let's get back to your spearfishing. Did you ever do any competitions?

NEWTON: I had dived before in spearfishing competitions at Stewart Island.

CRAWFORD: Those competitions would have been in your late 20’s?

NEWTON: Probably early 20’s to late 20’s, yeah. 

CRAWFORD: Did you have family connections with Stewart Island?

NEWTON: No.

CRAWFORD: You just went there because it was - you thought it’d be good spearfishing?

NEWTON: Well I was involved with the Otago Underwater Club and I became the trip organizer, So I organized trips to the likes of Stewart Island.

CRAWFORD: Were those maybe trips once a month or so?

NEWTON: Oh, no. I went as often as I could, but that was probably every three months, or something like that. A couple of times in the summer. I did some charter trips, but I also did some spearfishing trips over there.

CRAWFORD: Was Stewart Island a place you had been to several times, because it had a reputation for good spearfishing? Or was it just a place where you wanted to go?

NEWTON: Well, we used to have these competitions, where we’d do one up here and then one down in the south. Southland Diving Club would organize the competition, and more often than not they took us to Stewart Island. 

CRAWFORD: What was their rationale for spearfishing at Stewart Island though?

NEWTON: They thought it was better. 

CRAWFORD: Ok. Please give me a general overview of other places that you’ve been spearfishing - on your own, or in competition. Around South Island in general, what were your hotspots for spearfishing?

NEWTON: Around French Pass, right at the top of the South Island.

CRAWFORD: Over towards Marlborough Sound?

NEWTON: Pretty much beside the Marlborough Sound. And as I said, I used to spearfish a lot of the Otago Peninsula. And I guess, Stewart Island.

CRAWFORD: Those’d be the three big places?

NEWTON: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: When you spearfished, back in the day, around Foveaux Strait, where did you go spearfishing?

NEWTON: We did some over at Ruapuke. We used to go and stay over, not at Topis’, but Mason Whitetree used to be over there.

CRAWFORD: Was he a spearfisherman as well?

NEWTON: No, he was an old guy. 

CRAWFORD: Somebody was just friends with him, or what?

NEWTON: Yeah. So, we used to go out and stay with him. I think it was through Paul Young - he knew him. So, that’s how we went over there.

CRAWFORD: Alright.

NEWTON: I think we did a bit ‘round the islands, here. 

CRAWFORD: Spearfishing the Northern Titi Islands?

NEWTON: Yeah. But I specifically remember diving Port William. I specifically remember doing a spearfishing comp there. And I also remember Halfmoon Bay. Yeah, we dived along that face along this side - they had a South Islands spearfishing champs along there.

CRAWFORD: Ok. Along the south shore, headed out towards so maybe between Leask Bay and Ackers Point? Along that region?

NEWTON: Yeah, yep. 

CRAWFORD: Ok. I’m just trying to put some rough dates on this ...

NEWTON: Well when we dived the competition there, I think it was about 1973 maybe?

CRAWFORD: Ok. And what about Port William?

NEWTON: Well, that would have been early 70’s as well. 

CRAWFORD: What about the islands - the Titi Islands?

NEWTON: I can’t quite remember when I used to go around there, but that would probably be in that sort of mid 70’s to 80’s. And I’m trying to think what I did when I came back from Australia when I lived there for two and a half years. That might have been when I did a few charter trips over there as well. 

CRAWFORD: When you did fish out at the Titi Islands, do you remember which Islands you spearfished around?

NEWTON: No, I don’t. I probably wouldn’t have even known the names of those islands, in those days. I do remember spearfishing in this region - I’m sure it was before I was commercial diving. I seem to remember there's some 'beef barrels' or something they call them, on top of Bench Island. I’m pretty sure I spearfished there because I can still remember to this day, there was this huge big Blue Cod and a big Moki, and I was going "Which one will I shoot?"

CRAWFORD: Yeah? [laughs] And which one did you shoot?

NEWTON: [laughing] I can’t remember ... which one I shot, but I can remember they were really big, you know?

CRAWFORD: It seems most of your spearfishing was on the northeast side of Stewart Island. Or did you do anything else around Stewart island?

NEWTON: It was a long time before I came up at the top. But I remember coming up and diving up around Ruggedy Passage and round that area there. And that’s about all I can remember. 

CRAWFORD: Any other activities on the water back in those days?

NEWTON: I also used to do quite a bit of line fishing and that in the early 80’s.

CRAWFORD: Around the Otago Peninsula region?

NEWTON: Yeah, yeah. 

CRAWFORD: Was that from your boat, or did you go out with other people?

NEWTON: My boat mostly. I had a 20-foot boat then. 

CRAWFORD: Right but relative to the amount of time you spent diving, what percentage did you spend fishing?

NEWTON: Well, if I went out, quite often I’d go diving, then we’d do some fishing afterwards. 

CRAWFORD: Ok. You said earlier on that you began commercial diving at about the age of 40?

NEWTON: 42, I think I was. 

CRAWFORD: 42. You don’t hear that every day. When somebody in their 40s just takes a complete change in direction, but also does it by undertaking something that’s physically strenuous - on the extreme side of physical. You have to be in good shape to be a Pāua diver. You switched from being a full-time panel beater, to being a full-time commercial Pāua diver. How did that happen?

NEWTON: Well, there was another guy who was working offshore oil rigs, and he bought some Pāua quota. And he was getting my son, who was quite the diver even then when he was about 15, 16. He got Grant to go diving with him in the holidays. And then, next thing he said to me was "You want to get some of this quota?" Because, I was still diving as an amateur then. So I tried to buy some quota, but I couldn’t buy any initially. Then Paul Young, who I mentioned before, he came and saw me, and said "If I can get some quota will you come into it with me?" I was going to a place called the Rolling Shores in Western Australia for spearfishing. It was 120 kilometres offshore, or something like that, and it’s three big reefs there. We shot some pretty amazing fish there. And then I rang my wife back then, I rang her and she said "You got some quota, so when you come back again, go to Stewart Island."

CRAWFORD: And from that point you and Paul Young were business partners? Late 1980s?

NEWTON: 1987.

CRAWFORD: Right. But this means relocation, at least for when you’re working. 

NEWTON: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: What was the seasonality of your Pāua diving?

NEWTON: Well, I kept my panel shop as well for the first year and a half or so. And Paul had a little garage and he sort of kept that up for a while as well. 

CRAWFORD: Because you weren’t exactly sure what was going to happen with Pāua diving?

NEWTON: Probably, yeah. And then we just used to go down there for a couple of weeks, and then come home, and go back for a couple of weeks, and come home, you know?

CRAWFORD: Ok. What about seasonality to the Pāua diving?

NEWTON: Probably not. Because we started in August, end of July, early August I think it was. And it’s certainly not warm here in July and August. In fact, I remember we were staying at Stewart Island, and we had a house there, and we were with another guy as well. They went to the pub this night, and they came back and there was a smell in the house because I had my feet in the cold range - trying to warm them up, and I’d singed my socks. So, not warm down there at that time of the year, I can tell ya. [Both laugh]. And there was no electricity then. You had a generator. Bathwater was like the colour of this table, you know? All of us used to bathe from the same water, sort of thing, you know?

CRAWFORD: This was the late 80s?

NEWTON: Yeah, late 80s.

CRAWFORD: How many of those 2-3 week blocks do you reckon through the year you would have been gone Pāua diving? Half a dozen of those trips through the year? Something like that?

NEWTON: Yeah, we were going to the islands pretty regular. In fact, the first place I Pāua dived back down there was out on the Bunkers

CRAWFORD: Now, let’s just put a pause, let’s advance to you and Paul Young and your Pāua quota. Those 2-3 week blocks that you went down to Stewart Island for Pāua diving. Did you dive Halfmoon Bay?

NEWTON: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: What kind of boat were you on?

NEWTON: Initially, we just had a little boat that I had, which was about an 18-footer, with a 120 or 140 motor.

CRAWFORD: You fished out at Halfmoon Bay on day trips? Or did you do multiple day trips?

NEWTON: We would go out north to the [Titi] Islands. 

CRAWFORD: You did Pāua diving around all the islands? Or were there some islands that were a bit more productive than the others?

NEWTON: Well, we used to like Bunkers. But generally, we dived all around them. We certainly dived around the edges quite a lot. 

CRAWFORD: And this was late 80’s or early 90’s?

NEWTON: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: So, you were doing this well before any of the White Pointer research projects? And well before any of the cage dive tour operations?

NEWTON: Yeah.

NEWTON: I remember the first day I did was at Bunkers, and I thought “I’m not gonna be able to do this. It’s too damn hard.”

CRAWFORD: Just in terms of the work load?

NEWTON: Yeah. yeah. 

CRAWFORD: But then you become accustomed to it?

NEWTON: Yeah. Yeah, I think so. 

CRAWFORD: Were you selling you Pāua back in Halfmoon Bay, or did you have to transport them elsewhere?

NEWTON: No, we sold them in Halfmoon Bay. But when we started diving the east coast [of South Island] - the Catlins and that, we used to have to take them to Bluff or even Moeraki.

CRAWFORD: Ok, but for this period of time you and Paul were still day-tripping out of Halfmoon Bay?

NEWTON: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: And still mostly around the Northern Titi Islands. Did you do any fishing along the …

NEWTON: Yeah used to go right up toward Ruggedy Passage. We rarely came through here until later. But in the early stage, we dived a lot of the east coast, and down to Port Adventure - down that way.

CRAWFORD: Basically, the whole northeastern side of the island. How many years were you and Paul doing that?

NEWTON: Paul and I probably worked it only for about a few years down there. And then about 1991, I went my way, and he went his. 

CRAWFORD: Alright. And after that, were you still doing Pāua diving as your principle business? Full-time?

NEWTON: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: Did that mean buying some more quota, or leasing quota?

NEWTON: Yeah, I’d bought some quota by then. I had about 8 tons. We were doing the Catlins, sort of about that time as well. We bought a big boat and we started working out of Bluff. 

CRAWFORD: How big?

NEWTON: 72 feet. 

CRAWFORD: That’s a big boat. 

NEWTON: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: What was the name?

NEWTON: The Poseidon. They used to call it the Black Bucks. 

CRAWFORD: Black Bucks?

NEWTON: Yeah. Because we were catching so many Pāuas.

CRAWFORD: Ok. How many crew?

NEWTON: I think the most we had at one stage was 13, and probably 9 of them might have been divers. 

CRAWFORD: That is a big operation. 

NEWTON: The most we caught in one year was 120 tonne. 

CRAWFORD: And with that 72-footer, your range …

NEWTON: We moved into Fiordland

CRAWFORD: What year was that that you started fishing out of Bluff?

NEWTON: 1991. 

CRAWFORD:  Were you focusing most of your effort on Fiordland then, or a split between Fiordland and Foveaux Strait?

NEWTON: Mostly Fiordland. When they did a graph, they couldn’t work out why there was this big spike in Fiordland. 

CRAWFORD: That was you?

NEWTON: That was us, yeah. I don’t know if anybody ever realized that, but a friend of mine said “I’ve seen a graph, and it bounces up when you were doing Fiordland.”

CRAWFORD: Where else, other that Fiordland, were you fishing Pāua?

NEWTON: Well, we did still go around Stewart Island.

CRAWFORD: With the bigger vessel, was it no longer just the northeast shoreline? Did you fish around the entire island, or just certain spots?

NEWTON: Probably the whole thing. We might get in here, and we might get in there, or we might get in there.

CRAWFORD: Did you ever go Pāua diving along the western side? Like in behind Codfish Island?

NEWTON: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: Southwest Cape, Masons? The whole thing?

NEWTON: Yeah. I reckon I swam right round the whole island. [laughs]

CRAWFORD: I don’t doubt you for a minute. Ok. So, you were Pāua fishing Fiordland, Stewart Island …

NEWTON: And the Catlins.

CRAWFORD: In terms of the split of effort was it equal among those three regions?

NEWTON: Probably mostly Fiordland. Probably still is now. Maybe 50% in Fiordland and 25% each in the other two. Then we sort of went away from Stewart Island because Pāua got quite hard to catch there. 

CRAWFORD: When was that, roughly?

NEWTON: Well, they split the area into three. It was roundabout then. Stewart Island was starting to struggle. It’s coming back, but I haven’t dived there much for a while. But on the east coast, we just used to use roundabouts mostly. 

CRAWFORD: When you were using your smaller boats, you were deploying from the Poseidon?

NEWTON: Yeah. But when we would go up the east coast, quite often we would just go straight off. And we still do that now. 

CRAWFORD: How far up the Catlins did you fish?

NEWTON: We did the whole thing. 

CRAWFORD: All the way up to the Nuggets?

NEWTON: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: Ultimately when you stopped most of your fishing around Stewart Island, did it then become mostly Fiordland and Catlins? 

NEWTON: Yeah. Probably 70% Fiordland, then Catlins, with a little bit of Stewart Island still as well. They split the area in three, so it limited where we could fish. Like the Catlins can be hard to fish, whereas Stewart Island - we’d end up going that way, because you can always get in somewhere there. 

CRAWFORD: Would it be fair to say that throughout the entire time that you’ve been commercial Pāua fishing, there has always been some sort of Pāua fishing on the northeast side of Stewart Island - pretty much every year?

NEWTON: Well, we haven’t much in the last five or six years. Probably it would be 16 years since I’ve dived there to any degree.

CRAWFORD: So, from 1990 to about 2000, for that decade, you’ve got a time series of Pāua diving the northeast side of Stewart Island, plus or minus? Mostly Fiordland, and some Catlins?

NEWTON: Yeah. We also used to do a bit down on Seal Rocks, which is over here. 

CRAWFORD: East of Ruapuke?

NEWTON: Yeah. 

NEWTON: And some round here, like Monkey Island here and then just right round. I’ve done a lot around this area here. 

CRAWFORD: In between Riverton and Colac Bay? That region?

NEWTON: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: How long did you have the Poseidon until? Roughly. 

NEWTON: From about 1990 to … We didn’t keep it that long. Probably only had it for about two or three years. And then I went to Australia and bought an Australian fast boat - it was called the Predator. 

CRAWFORD: How big was it?

NEWTON: It was 52 feet - 16 meters.

CRAWFORD: But it was fast?

NEWTON: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: Lots of cargo space? Working deck all that? 

NEWTON: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: And that became your primary boat? Or your only boat?

NEWTON: Primary boat yeah. We had two. Then we had a couple of inflatables.

CRAWFORD: How long did you fish the Predator?

NEWTON: Probably through till 2000 - odd. And then I built a new boat. 

CRAWFORD: So, for about five years from the Predator? 

NEWTON: Then we built up a new boat, and put it in the water January 2001. 

CRAWFORD: How big was that?

NEWTON: It was 20 meters - 65 feet. It was called the Paragon. Built at Port Chalmers.

CRAWFORD: And you started fishing it in 2001?

NEWTON: Yeah.

CRAWFORD: Same kind of regions and activities as before?

NEWTON: Yeah.

CRAWFORD: How long did you fish the Paragon?

NEWTON: Up until about two years ago, not quite two years ago. When the boys picked up in the rocks on Shoby Island in Fiordland. The insurance company wrote it off. So, we went to Australia, and bought a smaller boat but not that much smaller. It was 57 feet. 

CRAWFORD: When?

NEWTON: 18 months ago. 

CRAWFORD: I’ve heard you described as semi-retired. 

NEWTON: [laughs] 

CRAWFORD: I’m not sure I believe any of it. When did you Pāua diving start to slow down? Or was it full time, and then you went right down to zero?

NEWTON: Well what sort of started to happen was, I would get in the water for the morning, and then I’d get out and make sure everything was in the holds and the water was going.

CRAWFORD: Ok. And the boys, your mates your crew, they were all diving for the rest of the day. But you were up top, you were still on the water one way or another. 

NEWTON: Yeah. The last commercial Pāua diving I did was probably, nearly two years ago. 

CRAWFORD: When you stopped, was that really the first time you weren’t spending a lot of time on the water?

NEWTON: Yeah. 

Copyright © 2017 Ross Newton and Steve Crawford