New Zealand King Salmon's economic impact on the Marlborough economy is predicted to triple if it goes ahead with its proposed expansion in the Marlborough Sounds.
Auckland company Market Economics has written a report supporting an application by King Salmon to the Environmental Protection Authority to develop eight new sites in the Marlborough Sounds and convert one mussel farm to a salmon farm.
Once the new farms and a signalled Picton factory were up and running, money flowing into the Marlborough economy from King Salmon operations could increase from $30 million per year in 2010 to $95m in 2016, the report says.
The forecasts presumed King Salmon would build a processing plant in Picton once production exceeded 15,000 tonnes, probably in 2014. This is flagged, but not covered in the application.
Fish from the proposed farms would start to come onstream in 2014 and the business could reach full production by 2020.
King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne said the expansion would also bring 50 to 70 new jobs on its farms by 2015. The company expects to spend $6m on an application.
SALMON IN THE SOUNDS
What's it worth
Marine farming annual returns, Environment Ministry 2003
Salmon - $1.1 million a hectare
Mussels - $43,000 a hectare
Pacific oysters - $35,000 a hectare
A near-doubling of salmon production in the Marlborough Sounds to 15,000 tonnes a year could create 50 to 70 new jobs on salmon farms by 2015, says New Zealand King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne.
The company plans to boost its production from 8900 tonnes a year to 15,000 tonnes within three years, with the ability to expand up to 30,000 tonnes. The expansion would create 45 to 50 new jobs in the company's four Nelson factories, Mr Rosewarne said.
King Salmon has applied to the Environmental Protection Authority to farm salmon at eight new sites in the Marlborough Sounds where marine farming has been prohibited, and to farm salmon at another site that has a consent to farm mussels.
Public submissions on the proposal are likely to open on April 2 if King Salmon has provided information requested by the authority.
Once production exceeded 15,000 tonnes, the company would need more processing space, Mr Rosewarne said. It was looking at spending up to $10 million building a factory in Picton and employing 20 to 40 people to process fish for the New Zealand market, or a contract processor could be used.
"We are closely examining options ... so don't want to get ahead of ourselves," Mr Rosewarne said.
Auckland-based Market Economics says once the new farms and Picton factory were up and running, money flowing into the Marlborough economy from King Salmon operations could more than triple, from $30m a year in 2010 to $95m in 2016.
This included extra spending by businesses supplying goods and services, plus flow-on spending.
In a report supporting King Salmon's application to build the new farms, the company calculated that the Marlborough economy stood to gain by $80m by 2021.
Extra income from the farms alone was not calculated. Cuddon Engineering chief executive Andy Rowe said benefits to his company could extend well beyond the building of the new farms. Cuddon built, replaced, repaired and modified salmon cages and other salmon farm equipment and designed improvements and modifications. If the Picton processing factory was built, Cuddon staff had the expertise to install and maintain refrigeration and piping.
Cuddon employed about 60 fulltime staff and King Salmon was one of the company's top clients on volume and value, Mr Rowe said.
"The bottom line is, King Salmon have been farming intensively for 20 years ... closely monitored by environmental groups and the Marlborough District Council, with no problems," he said.
Also keen for the King Salmon application to succeed are Mike Crowley and Arthur Dean, of Blenheim businesses Blast Coat and Deans Lifting Services.
Mr Crowley said blasting and spray-painting pontoons for King Salmon marine farms at the business's Blenheim site was "a fair bit of our work" done by his five staff.
These were hard times for engineering firms and it was vital to cultivate new work, he said.
Mr Dean, who employs a staff of nine, said more salmon farms could mean more work for his trucks, with built-in cranes used to shift bulky gear for King Salmon.
O'Donnell Park Barging director Sharon Parkes, of Linkwater, said more farms were likely to mean more work for her company, which employed eight people to operate three barges to transport smolt, meal, nets and fish for King Salmon. This might mean buying a new barge and creating new jobs.
However, ecotourism business owner Brian Plaisier, of Tui Nature Reserve, thinks salmon farm expansion will put the $215 million tourist industry at risk.
The case for King Salmon was based on creating jobs and income, which was understandable in difficult times but could lose the region tourism dollars, he said.
"The No1 drawcard for our visitors is to visit the Marlborough Sounds as photographed in magazines and on the internet," he said.
He accepted there was a niche for "wine and dine" tourism, but there were plenty of salmon farms in the Sounds, and adding more would have no benefits.
A top destination on the Tui Nature Reserve itinerary was Duffers Reef, near Kaitira, where the world's last 500 king shags are found, and where King Salmon planned to develop a new farm, Mr Plaisier said.
Visitors had often seen the damage caused to the environment by salmon farms overseas asked why Marlborough was going down this track.
King Salmon claimed its proposed farms had minor significance in the context of the whole Sounds, Mr Plaisier said.
However, there would be a massive impact on the Waitata Reach of Pelorus Sound, where five new farms were proposed and the company already had two farms.
Tui Nature Reserve overlooked two proposed sites, at Richmond and Tapipi. Associated with the farms would be lights, noise and endless human activity along with unsightly structures, Mr Plaisier said.
Destination Marlborough general manager Tracy Johnston said the organisation did not have a stance on whether the King Salmon application would be good or bad for tourism.
The tourism operators it represented fell across the spectrum, from strongly supporting the proposal expansion to strong opposition.
The Marlborough District Council argues that ratepayers will foot the bill for extra environmental monitoring if the proposed new farms go ahead.
Last week, the EPA rejected a Marlborough District Council proposal that if the King Salmon application were successful, it should be able to charge the company for occupying publicly owned coastal space. At an environment committee meeting last week, environmental policy manager Pere Hawes said while the company would monitor direct impacts on the environment, the council would have to measure wider effects at ratepayers' expense.
King Salmon responded that it would consider paying charges if they were spread across the marine farming industry.
- The Marlborough Express