Fish farm disappointment a warning

The decision approving four new salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds highlighted the importance of environmental monitoring, a Marlborough District councillor says.

After nine weeks hearing 1200 public submissions in Blenheim, the Environmental Protection Authority board of inquiry announced on December 20 that New Zealand King Salmon should get consent to develop fish farms at four of the nine sites it wanted in the Marlborough Sounds.

These were in areas where marine farming had been prohibited under the council's resource management plan.

The draft decision is open for submissions until February 8, with a final decision due February 22. People who made submissions to the original hearing can comment on only minor and technical aspects of the report. Once the final report and decision are issued, appeals are possible only on points of law.

Council environment committee chairman Peter Jerram said the decision showed the council needed to put more resources into monitoring the health of the Marlborough Sounds, and to prevent its farming-prohibited zone from being opened up further.

"It [the decision] will be a great disappointment to the greater Sounds community, that showed by their showing up at the hearings and their activity that they wanted the prohibited zone to remain that."

He was not optimistic that the draft decision would change much after final submissions.

The Marlborough District Council opposed the application while the Government backed the aquaculture industry's targets for growth. Nelson MP Nick Smith has said the draft decision would create valuable jobs in an export industry, bringing new wealth.

He would not close the door on further expansion.

The Marlborough Express