Saltworks fears ferry move

KAT PICKFORD
Last updated 16:15 13/02/2013
Shane Dufaur
Emma Allen

Taking stock: Lake Grassmere salt works site manager Gavin Williams, left, and Dominion Salt chief executive Shane Dufaur with some of the 12,000 tonnes of salt harvested from the winter storage ponds to recoup some of the shortfall from the slim yield in March

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The proposed interisland ferry terminal at Clifford Bay could be harmful to the Lake Grassmere saltworks business, says the chief executive of Dominion Salt.

Shane Dufaur said yesterday that the company, which owns the saltworks near Seddon, had registered its disapproval of the Government proposal to move the ferry terminal from Picton to Clifford Bay, south of Seddon.

The company's main concern was pollution from water traffic in the area of the sea water intake, where sea water is fed into Lake Grassmere for salt making, Mr Dufaur said.

Pollution from vehicles travelling past the plant could also have adverse effects on salt quality.

"We are worried about the Clifford Bay terminal," he said. "It has the potential to affect the quality of the sea water for the input to our salt-making process, particularly the clean and green reality and image of our natural salt products for human consumption."

The Government's intentions could be better publicised, he said.

"There is no visibility on the intent going ahead. Are they simply fact finding or have they already made a decision? I'd like to know that."

About 65,000 tonnes of salt are harvested each year at Lake Grassmere. Dominion Salt had 60 fulltime staff on site and 15 to 20 extra staff were taken on for six weeks during harvest, he said.

Mr Dufaur said the combination of Marlborough's high sunshine hours, dry northwesterly winds and the clean waters of the Pacific Ocean were integral to the saltworks' production.

"There isn't anywhere else in New Zealand with the ideal conditions and it would be nearly impossible to get approval under the current Resource Management Act."

The company had been monitoring water quality at the intakes to Lake Grassmere, about 25 metres off shore, since the resource consent for the Clifford Bay terminal was granted 15 years ago, he said.

Monitoring would continue if the ferry terminal was built at Clifford Bay to identify if the water quality was diminished by the increased water traffic.

Consumers could expect to pay more for their salt if Lake Grassmere had to close down, he said.

"We would certainly pay more for salt, with the negative impacts of foreign exchange. It would be a lot more expensive to import salt."

The saltworks produces all 3500 tonnes of food-grade retail salt for New Zealand supermarkets, restaurants and food manufacturers.

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- The Marlborough Express

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