Humble, generous, big-hearted, with a great laugh – now “forever out fishing”.
These tributes for missing eastern Bay of Plenty fisherman Jason Kauta poured out from his niece Mia van den Broek on Saturday after police announced the search for him had been suspended.
“My nan, she looks at it now that he’s forever out fishing,” says Kawerau-based Mia, 28.
“He always said that if he was to die he’d hope it’d be out at sea.”
But Mia says he wouldn’t have liked the idea of not being found.
Kauta, in his mid-fifties, was reported overdue from Tōrere nearly two weeks ago.
He failed to return from a fishing trip on Sunday, April 17, and the search for him began that afternoon.
There was extensive searching at sea by Coastguard, and aerial searching by the air force and Coastguard, as well as ground-based searching of the coastline.
On Friday police, iwi members and Kauta’s whānau walked beaches and searched secluded rocky coves. This was followed by a karakia.
Tōrere in eastern Bay of Plenty where Jason Kauta failed to return home from a fishing trip. The search for him has now been formally called off.
Some items found on the coast during the past two weeks are believed to belong to Kauta and these have been returned to whānau.
A rāhui will remain in place along the coast near Tōrere until further notice, police say. They thanked all involved in the search and said their thoughts were with the man's whānau and friends at this time.
Mia says she was very grateful to authorities for the effort they put in but was naturally sad it was time for the search to be called off.
”It’s not the easiest thing to, you know, just accept.”
Jason, she says, had been strongly attached to the ocean and taught her to fish responsibly.
”The sea’s his life, that’s him....the sea is his home.”
Jason didn’t have a partner and children, she says. His wider whānau was grieving for him.
“It’s hit the whole family hard really. We’re all being there for each other.”
Mia says she spent a lot of Christmas holidays time with her uncle on the coast.
“It was the best time ever...he was like the absolute best. He had the quickest wit that you could ever get.
“I wish everyone had an uncle like my uncle Jason. He was cool.”
Jason hasn't been seen or heard from since going fishing near Tōrere on April 17.