After a three-year battle and millions of dollars, three new salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds have been approved.
Conservation Minister Nick Smith flew to Blenheim yesterday to sign plan change documents at the Marlborough District Council offices giving the final go-ahead for the salmon farms.
He said the new farms at Waitata and Richmond in Pelorus Sound and Ngamahau in Tory Channel were hugely important to Nelson and Marlborough's aquaculture industry and wider economy.
The end of the process needed to mark the beginning of a more collaborative approach between councils, industry and the community, he said.
However, both Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman and New Zealand King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne said the relationship between the council and company was the best it had ever been.
They were working together well to produce best-practice guidelines to ensure salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds were environmentally sustainable.
Rosewarne said the company had never intended to enter an adversarial process.
"We didn't understand that was the course we chose. We regret it now. We want to work with the council and the community."
Smith's approval of Plan Change 24 culminated in King Salmon's three-year bid to make salmon farming a discretionary activity in eight locations in the Marlborough Sounds.
The application went to the Environmental Protection Authority board of inquiry, which approved four farms but the decision was appealed to the High Court by the Environmental Defence Society and Sustain Our Sounds. The High Court dismissed the appeals, but was appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld an appeal against one of the farms, approving the other three.
Smith also approved Plan Change 26, a technical change to the Marlborough Sounds Coastal Plan arising from the Government's aquaculture reforms.
It was good news that these coastal plan changes had finally been approved, but he was concerned about the time, cost and community divisions caused by the process, he said.
He wanted to send a political message by attending in person to sign the plan changes. The top of the South Island needed to find a balance between taking the economic opportunity from the use of natural resources while at the same time looking after lifestyle and natural assets.
"It's easy to talk about jobs and exports, it's a heck of a lot harder to create jobs and exports."
- The Marlborough Express
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