Sounds group taking action on comments

Sustain Our Sounds will complain to the Commerce Commission that New Zealand King Salmon is breaching the Fair Trading Act by misleading the public ahead of its application for more farming space in the Marlborough Sounds.

Sustain Our Sounds lawyer Sue Grey says King Salmon is in the business of securing more space for fish farming as well as growing and selling salmon. Making inaccurate statements to influence people, on issues such as jobs, was similar to false advertising, she said.

King Salmon has disputed Ms Grey's claims.

Sustain Our Sounds is campaigning to stop King Salmon's application to develop nine new salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds.

Statements Ms Grey claimed were misleading included King Salmon overstating jobs arising from the expansion. The company suggested it might build a new processing factory in Picton but this was not possible because the town water supply was fully allocated, she said.

The application did not cover building a factory so to include it in an analysis of benefits to the Marlborough economy was misleading, Ms Grey said.

"A person might be prepared to overlook concerns about the environment because family members could benefit from promised employment," she said.

Another example was King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne saying native worms were carefully managed under farms to break down waste. Yet international evidence including studies done in New Zealand showed only 15 per cent of nitrogen waste fell to the seabed and 85 per cent was carried away, Ms Grey said."All around the world the worms are the last survivor when conditions are so bad everything else is dead," she said. "They are hardly something to be proud of."

Ms Grey disputed Mr Rosewarne's claims that King Salmon grew fish sustainably when reports by the science institute they used, Cawthron of Nelson, confirmed the seabed beneath their farms was degraded.

Cawthron monitoring of the Waihinau salmon farm in Pelorus Sound in 2009 reported the seabed below it was close to the point where there was no life present and zinc and copper levels exceeded an international trigger point.

A large number of fish died at Waihinau in March this year, about three months after cages were returned following the site being rested for 18 months.

An environmental impact report prepared by King Salmon implied that the use of antibiotics and pesticides did not have to be considered as part of its application, Ms Grey said. However, its proposed plan change included all discharges to water or air associated with marine farming except human waste.

"If King Salmon suddenly has sick fish ... they could just slip in remedies including antibiotics with no need for this being considered in a public hearing," Ms Grey said.

In response to the Sustain Our Sounds claim that his company overstated economic benefits of its expansion, Mr Rosewarne said it would investigate options for processing fish if its application was successful. Previously, he has told the Marlborough Express that processing could be spread around existing factories or that a factory ship might be used.

The company acknowledged its farms affected the seabed beneath but denied remote environmental impacts, Mr Rosewarne said. The Marlborough District Council required the company to measure effects around its farms but the Government was responsible for monitoring the wider environment.

The Waihinau farm made an excellent recovery after fallowing, outperforming any form of agriculture and supporting the viability of the site, Mr Rosewarne said. Seabed conditions at Waihinau were well within acceptable limits when the fish died. "We stand by the fact that our footprint is tiny and sustainably managed," said Mr Rosewarne.

The Commerce Commission would consider the Sustain Our Sounds complaint when it came through, a spokeswoman said. It would not know whether an investigation was needed until more information was provided.

The Marlborough Express