Opponents work together

A key player in the fight against salmon-farming expansion in the Marlborough Sounds is enjoying writing guidelines for the industry with courtroom opponents.

Deputy chairman of protest group Sustain Our Sounds, Rob Schuckard, has been representing the Sounds Advisory Group at guidelines workshops in Blenheim and Nelson this week.

Staff from New Zealand King Salmon, the Marlborough District Council and scientists are also involved.

"We are all bruised and battle-weary with black eyes," said Mr Schuckard who gave expert evidence for Sustain Our Sounds at an Environmental Protection Authority hearing and subsequent appeals to the High Court and Supreme Courts.

Once Supreme Court judges released their decision, all parties would have to move on but legal debate had not set the right scene for engagement, he said. Sitting around the table together was a better place to sort out differences than battling one another through newspapers and lawyers.

The guidelines being worked on were for existing farms only and not for any expansion, he stressed.

"It is obvious the council is struggling to assess existing farms after 25 years."

Consents were muddled with a huge amount of information and it was hard for the council to rule whether or not they complied with resource consent conditions, he said.

"This has created a lot of anxiety in the industry too."

The council has said it hoped to release completed guidelines by April but Mr Schuckard hoped this would be a draft version for public comment.

Otherwise, representing the community through the Sounds Advisory Group sat too heavily on his shoulders.

Involving Scottish fish-farming expert Kenny Black in reviewing farm practice and monitoring standards was a good move by the council, he said.

Issues in Scotland and the Marlborough Sounds were very different but bringing in an outside perspective was helpful.

The Marlborough Express