Salmon plant for Picton

Grant Rosewarne
Grant Rosewarne

The expansion of salmon farming in the Marlborough Sounds could see a processing plant set up in Picton, New Zealand King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne says.

He said the new farms might be "a tipping point" that made the investment in Marlborough viable.

The Supreme Court has given the go-ahead for the company to build three new farms in the Marlborough Sounds, at Ngamahau in Tory Channel and Richmond and Waitata in the outer Pelorus Sound.

The new farms totalled about 4 surface hectares and would eventually generate up to 150 new jobs across the top of the South Island, Rosewarne said.

Of those, 50 would be in Marlborough, although that could change, depending on where the company did its primary processing, he said.

"It might be sensible to have primary processing move to Marlborough. There's a tipping point where that becomes viable."

Rosewarne said the company had all its existing manufacturing in Nelson, but any decline in primary processing in Nelson would be offset by increasing the number of jobs at its Nelson smoke plant.

Processing in Marlborough would reduce time to market by a day, meaning fresher fish to customers, while reducing costs at the same time, he said.

The Supreme Court decision meant 10 years of growth for King Salmon, Rosewarne said. The new farms represented the first new space to be allocated for salmon for more than 20 years.

Having a final decision was a relief to staff and management despite the disappointment over losing one of the farms.

"We are pleased to finally have some certainty after three years of legal process. The decision enables us to bring economic benefits to the region while operating in an environmentally sustainable manner."

Rosewarne said the benefits from the new farms would be significant, coming off a tiny footprint.

Once fully operational, salmon farming in Marlborough would generate around $210 million in direct revenues as well as flow-on business for companies supporting the industry, including transport operators, engineering firms, science providers, tourism operators, contractors and retailers, he said.

The company has been working with the Marlborough District Council, marine scientists and environmental campaigners to develop "best practice" guidelines for salmon farming. This work was being facilitated and guided by renowned international experts to bring confidence and independence to the process, Rosewarne said.

The guidelines would provide a platform for agreement to be reached by all parties.

"We are committed to work together on solutions that are acceptable all round, which are good for the economy and the community, while protecting the environment.

"This may involve some compromise by all parties to find the middle ground that is workable for both the industry and the community, and something we can proudly promote to the world."

King Salmon had joined the Global Salmon Initiative, Rosewarne said. The initiative was a collaboration of the 14 major global salmon companies and the World Wildlife Fund.

It has the goal of providing a highly sustainable source of healthy protein to feed a growing global population, whilst minimising environmental footprint, and continuing to improve social contribution. 

The Marlborough Express