King Salmon gets government money

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 13:34 07/05/2013

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A government department has defended a decision to give $600,000 to a salmon farming group dominated by a Malaysian multinational rainforest miller, saying its project will improve economic and environmental performance.

The money is to research skeletal deformities in farmed salmon.

Minister of Primary Industries Nathan Guy will give the money as part of a Sustainable Fishing Fund (SSF) grant to the "Salmon Improvement Group", which is not a legal entity.

Green Party MP Steffan Browning says the group is a mix of industry players.

"The reality is that the main beneficiary will be the dominant player in the industry - New Zealand King Salmon. This foreign owned company is responsible for 70 per cent of New Zealand salmon production."

King Salmon is 53 per cent owned by the Tiong family of Malaysia, who are extensively involved in rainforest milling in Asia.

"Overseas companies shouldn't receive a taxpayer handout to solve the problems caused by their unsustainable intensive fish farming methods," Browning said.

A spokesman for Guy said a final agreement on the funding would be made in the next four to six weeks.

"The funding is for a project, not for a specific commercial entity."

Asked who would own the intellectual gains made from the research, he said they would stay in New Zealand.

"All SFF contracts require that the intellectual property generated through the project is made available free of charge to anyone in New Zealand who wishes to use it," Guy's spokesman said.

"MPI requires all SFF projects to provide unrestricted access to the intellectual property free of charge to help facilitate this access."

He said the project had been "driven from the grassroots and will help to improve economic and environmental performance.

"Each project involves local groups and businesses who co-fund the work as well as running the project and bringing in the required expertise. Experience has shown this approach works and provides good value."

Earlier this year the Environmental Protection Authority granted authority to King Salmon to expand its operation in Marlborough Sounds. The approval has been appealed to the High Court by opponents.

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