Salmon farm risk to local landscape

Last updated 05:00 09/07/2014

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The Environment Court has rejected a proposed Pelorus Sounds salmon farm because it could lower the value of the "outstanding" surrounding landscape.

It also cited the opposition of a Maori neighbour Hori Elkington and his iwi Ngati Koata, saying the cumulative effects of what could be four salmon farms in the area on the tangata whenua weighed heavily against granting consent.

The Marlborough District Council's Marlborough Sounds Resource Management Plan defined the area the proposed salmon farm was in as "an area of outstanding landscape value", including the "coastal segment", the court's ruling said.

Because of its position by a headland, the proposed farm would be visible from the Waitata Reach and would have a "significant adverse effect" on the natural character of the reach and Port Ligar entrance, it said.

Whether the Resource Management Act meant to include "seascape" in its coverage was unclear, the court said.

It determined that the word "landscape" was the area "seen in a glance".

The court quoted marine biologist Rob Davidson as describing the effect of a salmon farm on the seafloor as "being like a compost heap".

"It is more accurate to say that the effect of the salmon faeces and excess food on the seafloor is like a dairy shed floor with incomplete flushing so that there is a buildup of excess food and effluent on the seafloor over time."

This was culturally offensive to Elkington, the court ruling said.

"It defies belief to describe that the discharge from the accumulated [consented] salmon farms together with the KPF farm is only a minor adverse effect from a Maori perspective, or from some other cultural perspectives too."

It also cited the Ngati Koata iwi management plan, which stated "any further despoliation of coastal waters was unacceptable".

The New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement was "the top document in the hierarchy" of planning documents, the court said.

That document called for planners to avoid any adverse effects on outstanding landscapes.

The court decision, by Environment Court judge Jon Jackson, and commissioners Kevin Prime and Ian Buchanan, allowed the appeal by Pelorus Wildlife Sanctuaries and others, and cancelled the council's consent.

KPF Investments is owned by United Fisheries, a Christchurch-based company. United Fisheries Havelock manager Bob Nicolle said yesterday the decision was "disappointing". The company was taking legal advice and had not decided what to do.

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- The Marlborough Express

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