Costs zoom for salmon farm bid

New Zealand King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne
New Zealand King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne

New Zealand King Salmon expects the cost of its application to develop nine new farms in the Marlborough Sounds will reach $9 million.

King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne said the company had not expected the Environmental Protection Authority hearing, which ended in Blenheim on Thursday, to take as long as eight weeks.

King Salmon would start work straight away if one or more proposed farms were approved, Mr Rosewarne said.

However, consent conditions might require baseline monitoring for a year before the eight farms were built in areas where aquaculture is prohibited.

The hearing had been thorough and everyone had the opportunity to express their point of view, Mr Rosewarne said.

The King Salmon team had done an excellent job of pulling together a thorough presentation and body of evidence, which made a compelling case for expanding the company's salmon farming operation in Marlborough, he said.

Opposition group Sustain Our Sounds chairman Danny Boulton said the large volume of reading material and lengthy hearing meant the decision-making process was stacked against the public.

Even the board of inquiry had found this difficult and had applied for an extension for writing their final decision, he said.

Sustain Our Sounds was fortunate to muster a competent team and the finance to fight an application of this scale.

"In our view, from the evidence there is only one decision to be reached," Mr Boulton said. "That is a no to the plan change and full application."

Brian Plaisier, of Tui Nature Reserve in Pelorus Sound, said the hearing process had been accessible and people were able to express their feelings.

His family was pleased to host a visit from members of the board of inquiry on a research trip around the Sounds and had been impressed they made the effort to visit.

It had been difficult during the later stages of the hearing to keep track of the information generated, especially around suggested conditions of consent, Mr Plaisier said.

Working concurrently on the plan change, resource consents and conditions meant few submitters were able to stay involved and have ongoing input.

Arapawa Island property owner Jamie Halstead, of Blenheim, said the hearing process advantaged those with the deepest pockets.

He employed a lawyer, surveyor and resource planner to give evidence against the proposed salmon farm at Kaitapeha, which was planned to be built in front of his holiday home.

"It is ironic our government keeps thrashing us for failing to save for our retirement but we have spent every cent fighting the application," Mr Halstead said.

Draft conditions suggested by King Salmon included siting the proposed Kaitapeha farm out of sight of the Halstead holiday home and jetty and prohibiting boats from visiting the site except during maintenance.

Mr Halstead said the proposed farm would still be visible from the rest of his property and he would prefer no farm at all.

The Marlborough Express