Marine consents appealed
Two marine farming consents in Beatrix Bay have been appealed to the Environment Court by Friends of Nelson Haven and Tasman Bay.
At Marlborough District Council hearings in May, commissioner Richard Fowler granted mussel growers Knight Somerville Partnership consent to develop a 4.35 hectare mussel farm and Ngai Tahu Holdings consent to farm fin-fish alongside mussels, at Beatrix Bay in Pelorus Sound.
The Knight Somerville Partnership had also appealed terms of its consent, said their lawyer Nigel McFadden of Nelson yesterday.
Friends of Nelson Haven committee member Rob Schuckard said it was a difficult decision to appeal the consents because the voluntary organisation was stretched fighting a NZ King Salmon application to farm salmon at nine new sites in the Marlborough Sounds. However, the issues raised were too critical to let lie, he said.
Mr Schuckard said in granting the Ngai Tahu consent, Mr Fowler failed to recognise that the vulnerability of the site to harmful algal blooms. Beatrix Bay was identified in studies as a stratified water body which meant cold or very salty water sank to the bottom.
"Stratification is a precursor for harmful algal blooms because it does not have mixing," he said.
Adding more pollution from fish farms could promote toxic algal blooms, said Mr Schuckard. These were already a problem in the Marlborough Sounds, putting a halt to shellfish harvesting.
Because there had been no monitoring of aquaculture effects on water quality in the Marlborough Sounds, the commissioner lacked the information required to make an informed decision, Mr Schuckard said.
Friends of Nelson Haven appealed the Knight Somerville Partnership decision because the organisation had long opposed double-parking of marine farms, he said.
The application is seaward of existing farms because it is next to an area where Sanford have consent to build a mussel farm. Sanford incorrectly positioned that farm more than 10 years ago and have since been in dispute with the council about how to rectify it.
Green list MP Steffan Browning, who lives in Marlborough, said while not critical of Mr Fowler he believed a single commissioner lacked expertise to make decisions which could compromise complex marine ecosystems. Mr Browning has stepped aside from a long-standing role as a spokesman for Friends of Nelson Haven.
Appeals about resource consents are usually heard by an Environment Court judge and two commissioners.
Making an informed decision affecting the Marlborough Sounds was especially difficult because the Marlborough District Council did not employ a marine biologist to carry out independent research, Mr Browning said.
Since the mid 1990s, Friends of Nelson Haven had successfully fought mid-bay aquaculture development around Beatrix Bay and in other areas of the Marlborough Sounds, Mr Browning said. Giving this development the go-ahead could set a precedent for a new ribbon of development.
- The Marlborough Express