Ferry captain says farms not a concern

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 16:00 02/10/2012

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About 150 marine farms throughout the Marlborough Sounds should be removed if space restrictions were to be imposed, Interislander ferry captain David Walker said yesterday.

Mr Walker, appearing as an expert witness on navigational safety for NZ King Salmon, said the suggestion in Maritime New Zealand guidelines for navigational safety when approving the setting up of marine farms that there should be 500 metres of separation between farms and passing vessels were just guidelines.

He said 26 per cent of marine farms in the Sounds were within 500 metres of a navigational route.

"As a mariner, I don't see these farms as being a concern."

In many parts of the Sounds, particularly in Tory Channel, parts of the land were within the 500 metres distance, let alone the marine farms, he said. "In my opinion, there is sufficient sea room for all vessels in all those parts of the Sounds. There should be no navigational concerns."

Small boats in Tory Channel took an inshore approach from the ferry track, tending to stay half-way between the shore and the ferries, Mr Walker said.

At the closest point a small vessel would have 100 metres between the vessel and the shore. That was twice the distance Marlborough District Council by-laws required vessels to stay clear of the ferries, he said.

"If I saw it coming, I could move (the ferry) more towards the channel, if it was safe to do so and there was no oncoming ferry."

Under cross-examination from the Marlborough District Council's lawyer, Steven Quinn, Mr Walker conceded that the turn at Dieffenbach Point, near the proposed Raumoko and Kaitepeha salmon farm sites, was a complex one.

"Under regulations, we're at restricted speed when the vessel rounds Dieffenbach Point. It relies on everyone getting it right. We're in close proximity with little room to move and there's a heightened level of awareness."

Mr Walker said he had circulated his report around all Interislander captains and deck officers as well as to a captain at Strait Shipping, and all had agreed the proposed Tory Channel farms would not pose navigational issues for them or other craft.

He was unable to speak easily because of illness, and was helped by his wife Wendy Walker and colleague Mike Swatridge at the hearing.

King Salmon's lawyer, Derek Nolan, said when cross-examining Marlborough harbourmaster Alex van Wijngaarden that 8 per cent of land in Tory Channel was within 500 metres of the ferry path and that wouldn't be considered safe.

He argued that headlands would be more hazardous than marine farms. Mr van Wijngaarden replied that headlands didn't move, but salmon farms did move from time to time.

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He agreed that 150 marine farms were within 500 metres of navigational routes, which breached the guidelines.

Board of inquiry member Mark Farnsworth asked Mr van Wijngaarden how many applications for marine farms he had asked to be rejected on navigational safety grounds.

He said he couldn't remember the exact number, but where, in his opinion, navigational safety was a concern, he had raised it with with the consenting authority or the Environment Court.

"Since 2005, we haven't had many new applications. We have had renewals of consents, they are existing farms, of 20 years plus. We have had a number of farms that have come up for renewal that have been in place for a number of years without problems, so I haven't had to put anything into effect."

- The Marlborough Express

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