The Supreme Court has reserved its decision into a hearing about the decision to allow more salmon farms to be built in the Marlborough Sounds.
Sustain our Sounds (SOS) hit back at New Zealand King Salmon this morning, saying the approach taken to allow building of salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds was not lawful.
Lawyer for SOS, Matthew Palmer, said the balancing approach used to make the decision was not legally principled, and a precautionary approach should have been taken.
The Supreme Court was hearing the appeal by environmental groups SOS and the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) to NZ King Salmon being allowed to build four new salmon farms in the sounds.
The decision, made by the Environmental Protection Authority's board of inquiry, was upheld by the High Court in July.
Palmer claimed the board did not have sufficient information about the environment and the effect of increased feed discharge on water quality before it made the decision.
This information was necessary to determine whether more farming would be sustainable, and should have underpinned the board's decision, he said.
Instead of taking the proper precautionary approach, it had taken a balancing approach, he said.
“It is very clear it is conducting a balancing approach…and the balancing approach is not lawful here,” Palmer said.
"How can you allow a plan change when you don’t know what the effect on the receiving environment will be?"
He said the decision-maker had to have adequate information about the sensitivity of the environment and the nature of the contaminants, which it did not.
“The onus is on applicants to define the effects of their proposal,” he said.
“We say the board’s change to the plan was not consistent with that.”
David Kirkpatrick, lawyer for the EDS, said it was important to ascertain the legal weight of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (NZCPS), and not leave decisions about building the farms purely up to the consents process.
The NZCPS guides local authorities in their day-to-day management of the coastal environment.
Yesterday NZ King Salmon argued the plan change was allowed with no error of the law.
Lawyer James Gardner-Hopkins, representing the company, said: “If you look at what they took into account, and look at the facts, they did it within the law.”
“The board was considering the effects of the proposals cumulatively – it wasn’t making any decisions…just looking at the issues…it spent a long time on that.”
He said the different bodies of water marked for salmon farming would be monitored separately for biosecurity and disease, and upholding water quality was "explicitly considered".
In two of the five sites at the Pelorus Sound, which the board deemed 11,500 tonnes of feed discharge was acceptable for sustainable farming, only 10,000 tonnes would actually be released, he said.
Also representing NZ King Salmon, lawyer Derek Nolan yesterday said if the standards argued by the EDS were upheld, all regional councils would have to go and change their coastal plans, because current activities would be deemed prohibited.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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