Picton man organises flotilla to protest salmon farm relocation idea

Marlborough Sounds environmentalist Peter Beech is organising a flotilla to protest a government proposal to relocate ...
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

Marlborough Sounds environmentalist Peter Beech is organising a flotilla to protest a government proposal to relocate salmon farms.

An environmental activist is organising a flotilla of boats to protest a proposal to relocate salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds, a proposal he describes as "dictatorial". 

The peaceful protest will be held on Easter Saturday, taking in existing salmon farms and a potential future site. 

The Ministry for Primary Industries has proposed to relocate up to six New Zealand King Salmon farms to higher-flow sites in the Pelorus Sound and Tory Channel. 

The proposed new salmon farm site in Tory Channel.
JOHN COWIE/FAIRFAX NZ

The proposed new salmon farm site in Tory Channel.

The flotilla, organised by Peter Beech, will circle salmon farms in Tory Channel, before travelling to a prospective new site at Oyster Bay. 

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"We are encouraging boaties and Sounds people and Sounds users to rendez-vous at Te Pangu, the first farm to the right of Tory Channel," Beech said. 

The Government needed to take into account the fact there were both recreational and customary users of the Marlborough Sounds, not just commercial users, Beech said. 

For the past five years he had concerns about high nitrogen levels causing paralytic algal blooms, which made customary fishers periodically unable to exercise their rights and harvest their kaimoana. 

Beech said it was important Marlborough people stood up to what was going on. 

"This one industry has the potential to ruin the Sounds for all other users," he said. 

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Beech, patron of conservation group Guardians of the Sounds, said boaties were invited to join the flotilla on April 15, and he could take up to 30 people on his own boat.  

The ministry was proposing to remove the Ruakaka and Otanerau farms in the Marlborough Sounds, and add another farm in Oyster Bay, bringing the total number of salmon farms in Tory Channel to four. 

Five farms were also mooted for Pelorus Sound, to replace four existing low-flow sites. The proposal was formulated after months of discussion from community, government and industry representatives.

According to the ministry, the proposal would bring both economic and environmental benefits for the area if it went ahead. 

The Government's proposal to use a section of the Resource Management Act rather than the council's existing resource consent process to create the farms was "undemocratic" and "dictatorial", Beech said. 

"We elect councillors, people who know our history. They know our culture and they should know our environment. 

"I don't think that for one minute the Sounds community can expect to get justice from that system." 

 - The Marlborough Express

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