Ministry backs fish farming expansion
The New Zealand King Salmon application to expand in the Marlborough Sounds fits the vision of the Primary Industry Ministry, an official said in Blenheim yesterday.
The ministry supported King Salmon's right to apply for plan changes and consents to enable growth in the company but was neutral on the application, ministry resource management and programmes deputy director general Scott Gallacher told the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) hearing in Blenheim yesterday.
The ministry supported the application because of the strong environmental performance of the fish-farming sector and the value gained from small areas of production. It was committed to growing aquaculture to increase export earnings and create new jobs.
A Global Aquaculture Performance Index rated New Zealand as the top performer of 22 fish-farming countries assessed, Mr Gallacher said.
The index website says low dispersed production, the absence of antibiotics and parasite treatments drives the New Zealand performance up, but it is a poor performer in sustainability of feed and energy.
Mr Gallacher said the relative absence of disease in New Zealand fish-farming meant comparison with the industry in Norway, Chile and Scotland was not useful.
When fish-farming was first allowed in New Zealand in the 1970s people objected because it would introduce disease to wild populations but this had not happened, Mr Gallacher said.
The ministry had investigated unusually high salmon death rates at King Salmon's Waihinau Farm in Pelorus Sound this year, Mr Gallacher said. Testing in New Zealand and overseas ruled out infections known to affect salmon and a final report confirming this should be released after peer-review late this month or early next month.
The outcome of the King Salmon application would directly influence iwi aquaculture settlement, Mr Gallacher said. Eight Aquaculture Settlement areas in the Marlborough Sounds included three in the marine zone where aquaculture was not permitted, set aside in response to the King Salmon's application.
This safeguarded the possibility the Crown might need to provide this space as part of its Treaty settlement, Mr Gallacher said. Resource Management Act and Fisheries Act approvals would be needed for these gazetted areas to be farmed.
Green MP Steffan Browning who lives in Marlborough said the gazetting of these areas might have been done in a way that had little or no regard to environmental reflects and community interest.
- The Marlborough Express