Residents 'devastated' as finfish facility approved for Okiwi Bay
Approval for International seafood company Skretting Limited to construct a finfish research facility has been given by the Marlborough District Council.
A 71 page decision document was signed off by Commissioner R Crosby on July 7 outlining the conditions pertaining to land, water and coastal use of the area.
The MDC initially received 219 submissions in relation to the application, of which 10 were in support and 209 were opposed.
While Skretting has welcomed the decision it has been greeted with much disappointment by Okiwi Bay residents.
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Okiwi Bay resident of 20 years, Paula Holder, said she was "devastated" by the decision.
"It's just a sad indictment for New Zealand to think that this could go ahead in our little bay and that a multinational company can come in and pollute our bay - because that's what they're going to do, and we get no gain."
Holder, who helped to organise protests against the research facility, said she was disappointed with the Marlborough District Council.
She said the decision was made in the interests of bolstering "big business" rather than those of local residents.
Holder said the Hands Off Okiwi Bay ratepayers group raised $40,000 for lawyers fees and other consultants "to fight a fight we didn't want".
She said it had been a "harrowing" ordeal for the residents involved.
An online petition opposing the research facility, called Save Okiwi Bay, gained more than 3000 supporters.
Petition organiser Helena Roughton said the decision was disappointing set a "worrying precedent for the rest of the Marlborough Sounds".
"It's turning a residential zone and community into an industrialised site. That could happen to anywhere else basically."
Skretting technical account manager for New Zealand Ben Wybourne said the company was pleased to have been granted permission to build and operate the facility.
Wybourne believed the project would be a worthwhile one for Skretting and New Zealand as a whole.
"It does have a lot of conditions attached to it and even more have been imposed, quite a lot considering what a minor thing it is."
He stressed that the environmental impact would be minimal and maintained that no fish food would be discharged into the bay.
"A lot of people haven't understood the effects of what we've proposed," he said.
"The water that's going to be discharged is cleaner and safer for swimming and shellfish gathering than what's in the bay, and won't have any ecological effects - that's the facts of the situation."
The resource consent will be officially granted at the end of the appeals period next month.
He envisaged a six month timeframe on the facility construction once the green light was given.
The full decision document can be read here.