Consultants' study comes in for criticism

PENNY WARDLE
Last updated 12:18 10/09/2012

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A study of social impacts if salmon farming expands in the Marlborough Sounds is selective and inaccurate, Pelorus Sound ecotourism operator Brian Plaisier says.

King Salmon consultant James Baines interviewed people who already had opinions on the company's plans to build nine new farms, Mr Plaisier said at the Environmental Protection Authority hearing in Blenheim on Friday.

They included a salmon farm manager, a Conservation Department area manager and Sounds Advisory Group representatives.

Mr Baines said he was not trying to survey people, but to gather information.

He had targeted people who managed, worked on or lived near farms because one purpose of his study was to learn more about existing Sounds operations and community effects.

Mr Plaisier pointed to mistakes in Mr Baines' report, including using inaccurate information from other experts to conclude his Tui Nature Reserve overlooked mussel farms, and saying proposed new farms would not be visible at night from their home, when they would be seen from the tourist lodge alongside.

"Experts are using each other," Mr Plaisier said.

"It's like a chain if one thing is wrongly done."

Judge Gordon Whiting said Mr Baines' evidence claimed to have considered expert reports on recreation, landscape, lighting and other effects. However, at Friday's hearing the consultant refused to answer questions on these issues, saying Mr Plaisier should have questioned experts in those areas.

Judge Whiting asked Mr Baines to change his statement to clarify that he did not “consider” these reports, which should be read parallel to his evidence.

Council lawyer Stephen Quinn pointed Mr Baines to a shift in the percentage of Marlborough people who saw marine farming as a threat to Sounds values, from 6 per cent in 2001 to 66 per cent this year.

The change had been identified when the Marlborough District Council repeated an earlier survey.

Mr Baines said the survey showed more people were concerned about forestry and residential development than marine farming.

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- The Marlborough Express

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