The Court of Appeal's decision to rule shark cage diving as an offence under the Wildlife Act is being hailed a major victory for paua divers and the Stewart Island community.
The ruling constitutes shark cage diving as "hunting or killing", making it an offence.
It comes after a long running stoush between Stewart Island pāua divers, The Department of Conservation (DoC) and shark diving companies - Shark Dive New Zealand Ltd and Shark Experience Ltd.
The Court found DoC had no power to authorise the activity under the act.
Storm Stanley, chairman of pāua industry organisation PauaMAC5, says the ruling is a relief.
"We've been arguing for many years that shark cage diving creates a risk for other users of the marine environment and that it needs to be properly regulated by the Department of Conservation."
PauaMAC5 also says protecting public safety is of the utmost priority.
If shark cage diving were able to be regulated under the Wildlife Act, the DoC must give consideration to the possible effects of shark cage diving on local pāua divers, the judgment ruled.
"We look forward to a broad public discussion to help develop a new law that protects species such as great white sharks, while recognising that the range of ways in which New Zealanders and tourists interact with protected wildlife has changed over time and will continue to evolve," Mr Stanley says.