MPs wary of teen's petition

Teen collects 11,000 signatures

KAT PICKFORD
Last updated 11:25 13/11/2012
Leona Plaisier

TALLY UP: Leona Plaisier with the tally of her petition when she was collecting signatures in Blenheim during September.

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Pelorus Sound teenager Leona Plaisier is disappointed no politicians are willing to receive her petition opposing New Zealand King Salmon's bid for nine new salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds.

She is particularly disappointed at apparently contradictory statements made by Primary Industries Minister David Carter.

Miss Plaisier, 17, made an opposing submission during the nine-week Environmental Protection Authority board of inquiry hearing in Blenheim, and has collected 11,000 signatures of people opposed to King Salmon's proposal.

However, she is "confused and disappointed" to be turned down by all four of the politicians she asked to accept the petition, she said.

She had emailed Kaikoura MP Colin King, Conservation Minister Amy Adams, Primary Industries Minister David Carter and Tourism Minister and Prime Minister John Key asking them to receive the petition.

She had also approached Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman.

She was most disappointed to be turned down by Mr Carter, who said he wanted to remain neutral and did not believe it was appropriate to comment until the board reached its decision, she said.

However, she found his reply statement difficult to accept after he told delegates at the New Zealand Aquaculture Conference in Nelson early this month that he wanted "a positive outcome" from the King Salmon application, she said.

Mr Carter was not available for comment, but his press secretary said it was not unusual for him to say he wanted a positive outcome from various issues.

Miss Plaisier said different people could interpret Mr Carter's statement differently, depending on their perspective.

"That's a weak statement - he could hide behind it from both sides.

"I'm OK if he wants to be neutral but at the same time he came across all nice and cosy with everyone at the conference. It's confusing."

Meanwhile, Blenheim-based MP Colin King said he did not remember sending Miss Plaisier an email turning down her proposition, but is willing to receive the petition.

Miss Plaisier said she would consider his offer.

The determined teenager knows it is too late to make a difference on the board's decision, but believes the 11,000 people who signed the petition deserve some recognition.

"It's not going to change their [the board in inquiry's] minds, but it would be nice to have the closure and recognition to show people their opinions count.

"It's not like there's only a couple of hundred signatures, there are thousands," she said.

Miss Plaisier has spent her life on Tui Nature Reserve, in the outer Pelorus Sound, where her family works to restore native plants and animals and host tourists.

The online petition at avaanz.org has attracted 10,720 signatures since August, and she has collected more in person in Blenheim and Wellington, Miss Plaisier said.

Regardless of the board's decision, preparing for the hearing had taught her many lessons and had also been a lot of fun, she said.

"If the farms do go ahead, I'll know I did my best.

"It would be terrible to have a guilty feeling in my stomach knowing that I could have done more."

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- The Marlborough Express

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