Ruling leaves bitter taste

Peter Beech, Guardians of the Sounds
Peter Beech, Guardians of the Sounds

There is no victory in the Environmental Protection Authority decision to turn down five of the nine fish farms NZ King Salmon applied for, says Peter Beech of Guardians of the Sounds.

Mr Beech said the decision released yesterday gave King Salmon plum sites, especially Ngamahau in Tory Channel.

King Salmon might have happily traded the Kaitapeha and Ruaomoko sites in Queen Charlotte Sound in a backroom deal for the potentially more productive Ngamahau site near its existing Clay Point and Te Pangu Bay farms, he said.

"The next step for them would be to apply to the Marlborough District Council for its new resource management plan to have the whole of Tory Channel classed as an aquaculture area."

It was tragic to see Waitata Reach of Pelorus Sound opened to aquaculture, he said.

In its evidence, King Salmon overestimated the financial contribution of proposed new farms, water quality information did not stand up under review, sustainability claims were unproven, and Maori cultural evidence was so poor that much of it had to be withdrawn, Mr Beech said.

During the hearing, Mr Beech said, he focused on the positive and trusted the judicial system would be fair and neutral.

However, the EPA decision confirmed his fear this was a government agency designed to short-circuit the Resource Management Act and disadvantage communities in favour of development and big business, he said.

The financial and emotional cost of fighting the farms was high and despite multiple approaches from lawyers, he would have to think hard about whether to continue a 20-year battle against inappropriate development in the Marlborough Sounds, Mr Beech said.

Leona Plaisier of Sustain Our Sounds said, despite a disappointing decision, she was happy to have spent much of the past year fighting the King Salmon application. Despite lack of money, objectors who fought the farms perhaps helped convince the EPA to approve only four of the nine farms applied for.

"Awesome seabed footage might have played some part in Kaitira and Tapipi [in Pelorus Sound] being turned down," she said.

However, environmental damage being done by an existing farm being rotated between Waihinau in Pelorus Sound and nearby Forsyth Bay was evidence that four more farms would have huge impact, she said.

Miss Plaisier rejected the adaptive management approach put forward in the decision as a way of avoiding environmental damage.

The Marlborough Express