Farm approvals may set precedent

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 15:00 14/01/2013

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The decision to approve four of the nine salmon farms applied for by New Zealand King Salmon could open the way for others to get marine farms in areas where they are banned, Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman says.

The Environmental Protection Authority's board of inquiry draft decision released last month could be a precedent, he said. "There are the iwi allocations alongside these. This decision could open up pathways to others."

The Government gazetted 83 hectares of water space in the Marlborough Sounds for iwi as part of the settlement for Maori commercial aquaculture claims, in two tranches on September 29 2011 and May 10 last year.

The board of inquiry's draft decision dismissed concerns of precedent, saying each application was a separate case that needed to be considered on its own merits.

It said it did not consider the concerns of the parties to be real. "There is no real evidence that multiple applications will be lodged."

The board of inquiry said the zone requested by King Salmon was specific to salmon farming so there would not be a risk of mussel farming (or other forms of aquaculture) applying for consent to use the zone.

While there has been some interest in marine farming in the Sounds (including salmon), there was no evidence that this would lead to multiple applications being lodged, the board said. There was no evidence of a "goldrush".

"Iwi have also emphasised a wish to be involved in aquaculture in the Sounds. While the recent gazetted areas provide some assistance to iwi, a plan change is still required, and there is no evidence of any concrete proposition."

Council regulatory manager Hans Versteegh said that while the Government had given iwi prior rights to apply for particular sites, iwi would still need to get resource consent for any aquaculture activity at the sites.

"The question is can they be granted, will they be granted?"

Iwi had not indicated what they wanted to do with the sites yet, Mr Versteegh said.

However, all the iwi in the top of the south were working with the council on its review of the district resource management plans, and that was a way available to them to discuss possibilities.

He agreed that once iwi had their Treaty of Waitangi settlements passed, they would be starting conversations with others, such as council and aquaculture companies about potential development.

NZ King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne said King Salmon was "certainly open to that".

The company had an existing relationship with Te Atiawa, he said, and as it had been granted more farms in its rohe (territory), King Salmon would be extending that relationship.

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King Salmon did not have a formal relationship with the other Sounds iwi, Ngati Koata and Ngati Kuia.

- The Marlborough Express

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