Compliance monitoring at issue
The Marlborough District Council says changes in the way New Zealand King Salmon measures the effects of its Clay Point farm in Tory Channel should give it more teeth to enforce compliance.
King Salmon has applied to change consent conditions governing the way it monitors effects on the seabed above and beyond its Clay Point farm.
Council commissioner John Milligan yesterday said the wording was "bollocks" and "never got in a bull's roar" of what conditions were trying to do.
"The whole point to conditions is not so everyone can get a nice warm feel and go away, but at end of day someone can go in front of an enforcement authority and say ‘I have been out there, taken readings; they are not in compliance'," Mr Milligan said.
Council resource management officer Bruno Brosnan supported tightening the consent conditions, that were so loosely worded the farms could comply even though they did not meet the numerical targets on a seabed pollution developed by the Cawthron Institute.
Changes requested should help fix the problem by tying together the words and numbers, he said.
Planner and King Salmon expert Sarah Dawson said the application would align Clay Point consent conditions with up-to-date scientific compliance monitoring methods.
The result would be clearer, more consistent and simpler consent administration.
The company was applying to shift boundaries inside the monitoring zone but there was almost no change in the 32 hectare area beneath and beyond the farm where depositing waste was acceptable, she said.
The company planned to follow up with similar applications for its other farms which all had different consent conditions, Ms Dawson said.
Mr Milligan asked whether assessment methods might continue to evolve leading to changes in whether a farm was found compliant, even if conditions beneath stayed the same.
Cawthron marine ecologist Nigel Keeley said this was possible with the agreement of all parties involved.
King Salmon also applied to give fish at Clay Point 500 tonnes more feed a year, from August 1 2013 till May 31 2014. Separate applications to boost feed for two years forward and retrospectively have been put on hold, so they could be considered in the light of results of annual monitoring next month.
King Salmon employee Mark Gillard said fish at Clay Point were bigger and older this usual this year so needed more feed. This was because the company opted to grow them for longer this year to make up for an unusually high number of fish deaths at its Waihinau farm in Pelorus Sound.
Also, these fish needed more feed for each kilo of weight gained and excreted more waste than usual, he said. This poor feed conversion rate was untenable but likely to change.
Cawthron marine scientist Ben Knight said increasing feed at Clay Point was unlikely to increase the frequency or size of harmful algal blooms. Ammonia from fish farms was rapidly diluted and consumed by nearby phytoplankton and bacteria.
Mr Milligan suggested this was a "suck it and see" application, to run for a year so scientists could verify whether the model worked at this site.
King Salmon lawyer Quentin Davies said the main reason for this change was to avoid the Clay Point being found non-compliant when monitored next month.
Rob Schuckard was to give evidence on behalf of those opposing the application today.
- The Marlborough Express