'We will defend our rights'

22:30, Oct 04 2012

A member of the famous 1973 Marlborough Ranfurly Shield-winning rugby team against Canterbury in 1973 spoke to the Environmental Protection Authority hearing at the Waikawa Marae, Picton, yesterday.

Bosun Huntley said he could not believe King Salmon had the cheek to apply for not just one but two sites side-by-side at Ruaomoko, one of the most popular customary and recreational fishing sites in Queen Charlotte Sound.

His Te Atiawa iwi had applied for a maitaitai (protected fishing ground) which took in Ruaomoko, at the entrance to Tory Channel from Queen Charlotte Sound, but was turned down by the Government in late 2010.

"I find it disconcerting that New Zealand King Salmon, with the help of the Government, is pushing to put a salmon farm there," Mr Huntley said.

Ngamahau in Tory Channel was hard to beat for fishing and diving and he would hate to see the corals, sponges and hydroid trees there smothered in fish tutae (faeces), Mr Huntley told the authority board of inquiry considering whether King Salmon should be permitted to build nine new fish farms in the Marlborough Sounds.

South of Ngamahau was Deep Bay, home to the best cockle bed in New Zealand, he said. If a fish farm was built here, nitrogen could concentrate and kill the cockles because a bar across the bay meant it did not flush well.

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Mr Huntley promised to grant commissioner Edward Ellison's wish for a feed of cockles before the hearing was finished.

Mussels and scallops were prolific at Port Gore where King Salmon planned to build its Papatua farm and this was possibly a fish-seeding area for Queen Charlotte Sound, he said.

Despite King Salmon claiming they consulted widely, he was one of the most experienced customary and commercial fishermen in the area but heard nothing, Mr Huntley said.

He knew of three sites better than those applied for with less environmental impact and fewer problems for home-owners.

King Salmon decision-makers must have assumed that because iwi stood to gain from a 20 per cent fisheries allocation as part of the Treaty of Waitangi settlement, they would support the application, Mr Huntley said.

"They believed putea [money] would outweigh our role as kaitiaki [caretakers]," he said.

"They are wrong. We will jealously defend our traditional rights, our sites of significance, our kai moana gathering areas . . . and customs as tangatawhenua [people of the land]."

King Salmon consulted solely with iwi organisations with vested interests in aquaculture but not land-owning whanau in the Sounds, he said. Mr Huntley implored the commissioners to look at the Takutai Moana Act, the Treaty of Waitangi and indigenous rights under international law when making its decision.

The Marlborough Express