Inquiry 'may be charade'

22:30, Oct 10 2012

Marlborough Environment Centre chairman Tim Newsham hopes the board of inquiry considering whether New Zealand King Salmon can build new fish farms in the Marlborough Sounds is free to make a decision based on intuition and wisdom.

"I hope this process . . . is not just a pageant, a charade, to try to lull us into thinking we are still working within a fair and democratic process," Mr Newsham said at the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) hearing in Blenheim on Tuesday.

In February, the EPA phoned Mr Newsham asking whether he would consider being appointed to the board of inquiry; an offer which after some thought he refused. "For the next few days I tore my belief system to shreds trying to come to terms with whether or not I was capable of hearing all the evidence and remaining objective."

The data he had since read on both sides of the debate reinforced his view that little was known about the marine environment. "I haven't seen a glimmer of evidence to say this is a safe activity."

Judge Gordon Whiting said when making decisions on environmental matters, the board could not consider who had done what to whom in the past but must focus on the present to make decisions for the future.

Mr Newsham also gave a submission for the Bay of Many Coves Ratepayers and Residents Association, questioning the benefits of allowing an industry to develop an export product in the Sounds when this might destroy the ability of people to feed themselves from their environment.

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Among community members submitting against the application this week:

● Richard Ford, who has lived at Bulwer in Pelorus Sound on and off for 41 years and watched water quality decline and marine growth increase on moorings and the sea floor. Children would not swim in the bay because of sharks attracted by the farm and he felt unsafe to dive. If its application was successful, King Salmon should be charged a bond so the cost of cleaning up the environment would not fall on ratepayers.

●Hanneke Kroon of Elie Bay said King Salmon's own evidence showed the water in the whole of Pelorus Sound and most of Queen Charlotte Sound was unsuitable for salmon farming .

●Eric Jorgensen of Port Underwood said rapid deterioration of the Sounds environment underlined the importance of aquaculture-free zones.

The Marlborough Express