Salmon farm approval bemoaned

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 07:25 04/01/2013

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The Environmental Protection Authority's board of inquiry decision to approve four new salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds missed the opportunity to set a high standard and show guardianship of our environment, opponents say.

Sustain Our Sounds chairman Danny Boulton said the board had set a precedent for the whole of New Zealand by overturning the Marlborough District Council's resource management plan, which had prohibited marine farms in the areas where the new farms have been approved.

That plan was the result of decades of community consultation and involvement reflecting not only people's opinion but also an enormous amount of local knowledge, Mr Boulton said.

He warned other parts of New Zealand this debate was not just about the Marlborough Sounds. A government report published in May identified Fiordland, Stewart Island and Banks Peninsula as potentially good salmon farming areas, even though Stewart Island and Fiordland were mainly national park areas "highly valued by other users of environment".

The report pointed out Banks Peninsula was roughly the same area as the Faroe Islands, in the Norwegian Sea, but the Faroe Islands produced 218 times as much salmon with a "fish farm in almost every suitable bay and fjord". In contrast, it said Banks Peninsula had one fish farm, "similar in size to a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet (excluding the car park)".

The competing land use meant that while New Zealand had excellent theoretical potential to produce salmon, it was unlikely to be realised.

"The fundamental issue is that New Zealand as a society has yet to come to a consensus on salmon aquaculture, with the proponents arguing for it to become a billion dollar industry while a wide-ranging opposition of recreational fisherman, inshore fishing companies, holiday home owners and environmental advocates oppose its growth. There is also historic uncertainty around foreshore and seabed ownership."

Aquaculture New Zealand chairman Peter Vitasovich said New Zealand salmon farmers produced premium seafood, employed hundreds of people in regional communities and generated large export earnings by responsibly farming carefully chosen sites that occupy a fraction of coastal waters.

"Successful farming of king salmon in New Zealand has very specific requirements that make only a handful of sites around the country suitable.

"Maximising the potential of those suitable sites is crucial for realising the economic benefits for the community and the country."

However, Mr Boulton said companies in Nelson were successfully farming fish profitably while being land-based, and NZ King Salmon could do the same.

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"The technology is there, but the applicant chooses to create more profit by polluting an internationally recognised coastal marine area and not internalising their waste."

- The Marlborough Express

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