Fish farm plan upsets bach owners

Marlborough Sounds residents should know there is nothing to stop a business applying to build a fish farm in front of their bach or home, Picton fisherman Lawrence Gledhill says.

Just before Christmas, New Zealand King Salmon told Lawrence and Petrice Gledhill they planned to build a salmon farm in front of their family's holiday home and fishing base at Ngamahau Bay on Arapawa Island, if granted permission in a Environmental Protection Authority hearing which opens in August.

The 3.5-hectare farm, with an area under water of about 35ha, would include a 280 square metre building.

It would be about 300 metres from the beach, out from the bach.

This flew in the face of King Salmon's assurance at consultation meetings in the Marlborough Sounds that no farms would be built in front of homes and baches, Mr Gledhill said.

Worry about the application is costing them sleep, work time, and money spent on employing a lawyer to help defend their right to continue enjoying the property they bought 20 years ago, the Gledhills say. The proposed farm would ruin their view over Tory Channel, destroy their privacy and devalue the property, they said.

As a fisherman, Mr Gledhill said he knew salmon farms were noisy, smelly and busy, with lots of people and service boats coming and going. On top of the constant drone of a generator, there was the rattle of pellets at feeding times and a smell of ammonia, possibly due to heavy fouling by seagulls.

The Gledhills fear for their family's health if the farm goes ahead. Prevailing southerly and southeasterly winds would push waste, which smelt like rotten eggs, on to the beach, along with discarded rubbish, they say.

The thousands of seagulls that flocked to the farm would roost on their bach roof and boat, and underwater lights which the company proposed to use to stop salmon maturing would spoil the night-time beauty of the Sounds.

Year-round, family members who worked for Ngamahau Fishing stayed at the bach while working and maintaining boats, and in the summer it was a holiday home for the extended whanau, Mr Gledhill said. The property had a magnificent view, a 200-metre beach, regenerating native bush, ample flats with three sites where family members planned to build, and a year-round water supply – unusual for Arapawa Island.

King Salmon had offered to buy their land for an "insulting" price, Mr Gledhill said. His family was not interested in money and asked that the company instead buy them a comparable property in the area. There had been no response.

King Salmon provided valuable jobs for Marlborough people and, until now, Mr Gledhill said he had no problem with their farms' presence in the Sounds.

However, the company's disregard for the rights of Sounds residents changed his opinion.

The Gledhills' iwi is Te Atiawa, which they have asked for help in representing their concerns.

On a visit to the company's nearby Clay Point farm last month, King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne said the company had not planned to locate a farm in front of the Gledhill property, but had to change plans because there was a reef under the original site. Mr Gledhill said he and other fishermen in the area had failed to locate the reef using echo-sounders.

Yesterday, Mr Rosewarne would not comment on the Gledhills' situation, saying negotiations were confidential.

A report by Nelson-based marine research company Cawthron supporting the farm application, says the site is suited to salmon farming. However, 118 species of marine life were found below the proposed farm and the area had notable ecological values.

The report said waste could affect reef, cobble (stones) and sand habitats between the farm and the shore. Directly beneath salmon cages, waste-feeding worms would replace other species and a further 14.6ha of seabed would be affected. Further afield, it was difficult to predict effects and Cawthron recommended monitoring.

The Marlborough Express