EPA knocks back fish farm charge

Clay Point salmon farm in Tory Channel.
Clay Point salmon farm in Tory Channel.

King Salmon has successfully challenged the Marlborough District Council's proposal to charge companies for occupying coastal waters for finfish farming.

The Environmental Protection Authority's Board of Inquiry has determined the council cannot introduce new coastal charges on finfish farmers at this point in the process examining King Salmon's application to farm in areas of the Marlborough Sounds where marine farming is prohibited.

King Salmon has indicated to the Marlborough Express, however, that it will consider paying charges under certain conditions.

At a hearing on Friday, the board determined that the introduction of coastal occupancy charges were substantive additions, and that it would be contrary to the law to allow the council the power to modify King Salmon's plan change request when the modifications the council wanted were opposed by the applicant.

"If the council could make substantive additions contrary to the wishes of NZKS, then NZKS would be forced to make a submission against its own plan change. That would be a curious result."

The board said the council could apply to re-introduce the charges in its submission during the hearings process after the proposed plan change was notified.

The council's environment committee was told on Thursday that King Salmon was challenging the council's proposal to charge companies for occupying coastal waters for finfish farms.

Council staffer Pere Hawes said King Salmon had accused the council of exceeding its jurisdiction in its proposed plan change.

In that change, written in response to King Salmon's application, the council floats the idea of charging for coastal occupancy consents.

That funding would be used to pay for the environmental monitoring of the salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds.

Mr Hawes said council was required to consult on any plan changes, and had provided King Salmon with it. "They are challenging that."

The environment committee approved the formation of a sub-committee to respond to the EPA's board of inquiry on behalf of the council, as the submission period was only 20 working days and would fall between committee meetings.

That was approved, and the sub-committee will be environment committee chair Peter Jerram, environment committee deputy chair Trevor Hook, and plan review sub-committee chair David Dew.

Mr Hawes said notification was expected within the next couple of weeks.

Commenting on the council's proposition on charging, King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne said the company did not rule out paying a coastal marine charge at a future point and was "happy to pay our own way".

"However charges must be on an equitable basis across all marine farming and marine utilisation, not just applicable to one company," Mr Rosewarne said.

"The EPA process is costing us some $6 million. We cannot afford both expensive approval processes and then expensive charges. As it is, NZ King Salmon already invests hundreds of thousands of dollars in monitoring its own sites."

The Marlborough Express