Inquiry should 'heed experts'
The board of inquiry should give less weight to lay witness opinion than expert evidence during the hearing to decide whether New Zealand King Salmon can develop more fish farms in the Marlborough Sounds, one of the company's lawyers said yesterday.
Lawyer James Gardner-Hopkins was opening legal submissions at an Environmental Protection Authority hearing considering an application by King Salmon for a plan change and resource consents that would enable it to develop nine new farms in the Marlborough Sounds.
It was the second day of hearings in Blenheim at the FloorPride Marlborough Civic Theatre.
Most of the nearly 1300 submissions lodged on the application opposed the new salmon farms.
Mr Gardner-Hopkins said the number of submissions was not relevant, but their quality and legal relevance was.
People opposing the King Salmon application had indiscriminately quoted evidence on harmful blooms, Mr Gardner-Hopkins said.
This included Sustain Our Sounds experts Rob Schuckard and Helmut Janssen, who had "uncritically downloaded information on algal blooms from the web and pasted it into their documents without any evaluation of its significance for salmon farming in the Sounds".
Scientific uncertainty and caution were not reasons to decline a proposal and the Resource Management Act did not require a no-risk approach, Mr Gardner-Hopkins said.
King Salmon advocated adaptive management where effects were uncertain. This was learning by doing, monitoring effects, then making decisions.
Resource consents should include conditions with an ability to "remove all or some of a development if monitoring showed unacceptable effects on the seabed below farms or seawater further away".
Mr Gardener-Hopkins quoted evidence from King Salmon expert James Fairgray that the company would spend $40 million developing its proposed new farms including $29m in Marlborough and Nelson. An estimated $880m contribution to the Top of the South economy included a processing factory in Picton, which might or might not be built.
Evidence from Professor Tim Hazeldine for the Marlborough District Council estimated benefits at $9m a year.
Because of the difference between the two amounts, King Salmon commissioned a third report that estimated benefits at $594 million.
- The Marlborough Express