The Marlborough Sounds is at a "tipping point" and people have the responsibility to protect the environment and wildlife from pollution caused by salmon farms, Tui Nature Reserve Wildlife Trust chairman Brian Plaisier says.
Mr Plaisier spoke passionately about the risks of pollution from more salmon farms and the threat they could pose to the next generation's ability to enjoy the area to a full house at Waikawa Marae as part of the New Zealand King Salmon hearing on Thursday.
The trust, with support from the Conservation Department, runs a bio diversity conservation programme for students in the outer Pelorus Sound that includes field work, lectures and visits to the marae.
"We have a duty to our children to protect our environment. We need to recognise that we've reached a tipping point in our Sounds.
"We need to ask ourselves the hard questions: do we put economy before environment, and how do we justify that to our mokopuna?"
Mr Plaisier believed that not only would any new salmon farms pollute the area, they would set a precedent for further industrialisation.
Young people needed to be given the tools to protect their environment and they needed to have an environment left to protect, he said.
"We want to encourage young people to become involved and continue those projects. It's not too late, we can still save some habitat."
Salmon farms also posed a risk to wildlife such as the king shag and hector's dolphins, whose habitats could be reduced, farm by farm.
The balance of nature in the Sounds was too delicate and unready for further expansion, he said. Suggestions it would adjust and create a fresh eco-balance were untrue.
Damage to the ocean floor due to existing farms, high nitrogen levels polluting the water and dead fish being dumped or left in the water painted an ugly picture for the future of the area.
"It's a threat to the king shag and the work done to protect it, the work of our students. We like to think we are born survivors but we seem to ignore the fact that we are destroying our life support."
Mr Plaisier labelled the aqua culture company's intentions as "shortsighted, with complete disregard for our next generation" and in direct conflict with the trust's conservative approach.
Tui Nature Reserve Wildlife Trust board Ngati Kuia representative Raymond Smith supported Mr Plaisier's request that the Environmental Protection Agency board of inquiry reject King Salmon's proposal to develop nine new farms in the Sounds.
After hearing submissions at Waikawa Marae for three days last week, the hearings move to the Portage Resort Hotel today and then to the Marlborough Convention Centre in Blenheim tomorrow.
- The Marlborough Express