Marlborough people are far more aware of aquaculture and its economic importance than the national population, a Government survey says.
The Ministry for Primary Industries published last week the results of a survey asking New Zealanders what they think about the aquaculture industry.
The survey showed 94 per cent of people in Marlborough surveyed were aware of aquaculture and 92 per cent were aware of its economic contribution.
However, 14 per cent of Marlborough people said they had been negatively impacted by aquaculture, compared to 6 per cent nationally.
Marlborough people's views about the aesthetic impact was less positive than the average.
The survey said residents in smaller regions, where aquaculture was carried out, were most likely to appreciate the economic benefits provided by the industry, in particular employment.
Marlborough was more likely, at 64 per cent, to focus on economic benefits than the average of 52 per cent.
Aquaculture New Zealand chief executive Gary Hooper said it was encouraging to see the vast majority of New Zealanders supported the industry.
"At the heart of the industry is our people. Marine farmers are hard working contributors to their respective communities. Their kids go to local schools, they source goods and services from local suppliers and they share the same water space and the same environmental concerns as fellow water users.
"They fish, dive and boat in the waters around the farms. It's their backyard, their playground, and their legacy to their children and they make sure they protect it. It's positive to see this contribution to communities and the commitment to sustainability resonating well with New Zealanders."
Hooper said marine farming occupied less than 0.1 per cent of our coastal waters yet provided over 3000 "green jobs" in regional areas and was the lifeblood of some communities.
In the 12 months to June 30, 2013, aquaculture generated over $298 million in exports. With improved productivity, new space and value added marketing, export earnings can more than double by 2025, he said.
Marine Farming Association executive officer Graeme Coates said the results were not surprising, but it was good to gauge public perception.
"For every hectare out there in salmon farms, four jobs are created on the farms and on land. For mussels, every 3 hectares of farms, there's a full-time equivalent job on land and at sea. It does generate a fair bit of wealth for Marlborough. Growth, if we could get it, would be good."
There were about 1500 jobs from marine farming in the Marlborough Sounds, Coates said, not all in Marlborough.
Ministry Acting Director of Aquaculture Growth and Innovation Alice Marfell-Jones said the findings were positive.
The survey showed that 73 per cent of New Zealanders had positive views of aquaculture and that 91 per cent agreed New Zealand should look for opportunities to sustainably grow the industry, she said.
- The Marlborough Express
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