Council 'had gun to its head'

A meeting with an Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) official last year left the Marlborough District Council in no doubt that the New Zealand King Salmon application to expand in the Marlborough Sounds would be out of its hands.

During a Radio New Zealand interview on Monday, council environment committee chairman Peter Jerram said the council had "a gun to its head" when it agreed to have the King Salmon application considered by the EPA.

These words might have been too strong, but there was certainly no option, he said. In a meeting with the council, an EPA official made it clear Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson would not accept a council hearing or having the application go directly to the Environment Court, Cr Jerram said. Only an EPA hearing was acceptable because this was a proposal of national significance.

Mayor Alistair Sowman and regulatory manager Hans Versteegh shared his memory of the meeting, he said.

However, Cr Jerram said having the EPA oversee the application was "no bad thing". This allowed the Marlborough council to stand back and consider whether they would support or oppose the King Salmon proposal. The council would decide whether to submit when public submissions to the King Salmon application opened, Cr Jerram said. That was likely to be at the beginning of April, if the company provided information requested by the EPA in time.

King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne said claims by Guardians of the Sounds spokesman Peter Beech on Monday that King Salmon had "leap-frogged over the council" in applying to the EPA for a plan change were wrong. The council had encouraged King Salmon to take its application for new salmon farm space to the EPA, he said.

The Marlborough Express