A Kaikōura man has been fined for pretending to be a Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) fishery officer and extorting money from tourists who he told had caught undersized fish.
Forty-two-year-old Daniel James pleaded guilty to a charge of falsely claiming to be a fishery officer and was fined $600 and ordered to pay $130 court costs when he appeared in the Kaikōura District Court last week.
The court was told that Mr James approached 3 French tourists who had been freediving in South Bay at the end of November last year and told them he was a fishery officer and was there to inspect their catch.
He advised the tourists, after measuring the fish with his hands, that 2 of the fish were undersized and that the third was not fit to eat.
Mr James also told the trio that, by law, he should take all their equipment from them including their car and that he should send them to court.
He added that they would need to pay a $1,600 fine for the first fish and a $700 fine for the second, then told them that instead of going to court, they could give him a $200 cash donation.
The tourists asked Mr James for a business card but were told by Mr James he was on his day off and that his cards were in the office. He then advised that the tourists needed to pay up immediately or he would make everything official, take their passports and set a court date for them to appear at.
One of the tourists then drove to an ATM, withdrew $200 and gave the money to Mr James in the belief that it was a payment of a fine.
MPI spokesman Howard Reid says the incident is very disappointing and Mr James' actions were completely unacceptable.
"His actions in falsely representing himself as a fishery officer are viewed as serious and something that could undermine the public's trust in the law. It was made even worse by doing so for financial gain.
"We are very grateful to the Kaikōura locals who looked after the tourists and encouraged them to report this incident to MPI and the Police.
"Our fishery officers do a very important job. They're out and about ensuring everyone knows the fishing rules in their area and understanding why they exist. The people who Mr James lied to and extorted money from were innocent parties and did not deserve to go through the ordeal that they did."
The courts ruled that James pay the $200 reparation to the French tourists.