The judge heading the board of inquiry into salmon farm expansion yesterday appeared to give short shrift to an argument that allowing salmon farming in a prohibited zone would contravene an act of Parliament.
Lawyer Sue Grey said the Takutai Moana (Marine and Coastal) Act 2011 was worded to protect existing users of the coastal marine area from being displaced by new users wanting to exclusively occupy space.
Ms Grey represents the Pelorus Boating Club based in Havelock, the Royal Portage Bay Boating Club based at Portage, in Kenepuru Sound, and the Mana Cruising Club, based in Wellington.
Judge Gordon Whiting said these types of arguments could distract from real issues.
The board of inquiry is considering an application by New Zealand King Salmon for a plan change and resource consents so it can create nine new fish farms in areas of the Marlborough Sounds where aquaculture is prohibited.
Judge Whiting said he had read the act for the first time that day but had problems with an interpretation which could stymie development. He asked whether the bill meant to ensure there would be no further development of any kind in coastal marine areas.
His understanding was that the bill directed that a plan change or renewal could change the status of an area in a regional or district plan.
Ms Grey quoted Attorney-General Chris Finlayson as saying at its first reading the bill recognised swimming, boating, walking, fishing and other recreational activities in the public coastal marine area as a birthright of all New Zealanders.
"That is why public access, fishing and navigation . . . are guaranteed," Mr Finlayson had said.
Ms Grey said she understood the bill did not allow variations to district or regional plans, if a prohibited activity requiring exclusive occupation of space was involved.
Allowing the plan change required for King Salmon to build eight of its nine proposed farms could be unlawful, she said.
It was up to the board whether they regarded her interpretation of the bill as a strike-out or something to take into account.
Judge Whiting said it was "food for thought".
The King Salmon hearing yesterday began its fourth week at the Civic Theatre in Blenheim, after an adjournment on Monday. The hearing is expected to take up to 10 weeks.
- The Marlborough Express
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