The natural character of the Marlborough Sounds sites where New Zealand King Salmon plans to develop nine new fish farms should be valued from the seabed to the mountain tops, Department of Conservation official Andrew Baxter says.
''Environments from reefs to sand and mud have a part in forming an area's natural character,'' Mr Baxter said this morning.
He was giving evidence to the Environmental Protection Authority board of inquiry, supporting his stance that nine new fish farms in the Marlborough Sounds would disrupt the natural character of the Sounds.
NZ King Salmon has applied for consent to develop the new farms in areas prohibited under the Sounds management plan.
Mr Baxter said landscape architects described landscapes from the surface of the sea but the board should look at the bigger picture.
''The idea of the whole is greater than the sum of parts.''The board had the difficult job of putting together a jigsaw of disciplines, including his area of marine ecology, he said.
Board commissioners Mark Farnsworth and Edward Ellison suggested this approach was a work in progress.
Mr Farnsworth asked whether it would be difficult to value underwater landscapes which could not be seen.
Mr Baxter said this way of looking at landscapes was not new but it was early days for integrating it into planning. There was enough information around, often gathered as part of marine farming applications, to accurately describe marine environments, he said.
Mr Baxter acknowledged that dredging for scallops had already damaged relatively flat areas no deeper than 60 metres. The sites applied for by King Salmon were mostly in deep water with a sloping seabed.
- The Marlborough Express