Oyster farm plan divides island community

BRIDGET RAILTON
Last updated 06:46 16/05/2014

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A proposed oyster farm at three new Stewart Island sites has divided the local community.

A hearing for Suelen Properties, the Stewart Island-based business wanting to establish a marine farm to cultivate Bluff oysters, began at Environment Southland yesterday.

Twenty four submissions were received on the application, eight in support, 13 opposed and three which did not specify either way.

Employment opportunities was the main reason for support, while opposing submissions cited issues such as navigational, environmental, and recreational concerns.

Applicant Len Lind said it was hoped the venture could result in vibrant local industry and provide much-needed employment to locals.

The environmental impacts would be no different to to those of rock lobster pots which did not require a consent under the Southland Regional Coastal Plan, he said.

The pots would also build up an artificial reef scenario over time which would attract smaller fish and marine species, he said.

Retired Stewart Island seaman Herbert Hansen said Lind's oyster operation would not interfere with boat navigation and he could not see any reason for the application to be declined on navigational or other grounds.

Southland District Council Stewart Island ward representative Bruce Ford supported the application, and said it was essential for economic progress.

"It is important for the survival of the community to continue to be innovative and and resourceful and use opportunities that occur from time to time."

Stewart Island resident Helen Cave submitted against the application because of concerns the beauty and recreational value of Horseshoe Bay would be compromised.

While she did not object to small-scale unobtrusive farming, she was concerned the proposal was the "the thin end of the wedge" which would allow marine farming on a larger scale in Horseshoe Bay.

If the consent was granted, she also had concerns about compliance, and requested regular monitoring by Environment Southland.

Dancing Star Foundation, which operates an ecological preserve and community nursery adjacent to the proposed site, called for the application to be declined because of concerns with pest management in the area.

Lawyer Clare Lenihan, on behalf of Dancing Star, said there were environmental and financial risks with the proposal.

The foundation had concerns regarding the mitigation of pests getting ashore and the issue of setting a precedent for larger scale operations.

The hearing is expected to continue today, and a decision reached in three weeks.

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- The Southland Times

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