Criticism from both sides good sign - Smith


Nelson MP Nick Smith said today the fact that neither side was happy with the New Zealand King Salmon board of inquiry process was an indication that it worked.

The Environmental Protection Authority's board sat for nine weeks and considered close to 1300 submissions, two-thirds in opposition. It was granted a two-month extension to produce its final report and decision, now due by February 22.

The application, which the company says has cost more than $9 million, met stiff opposition from environmental groups and many Sounds residents.

The Marlborough District Council was among those who opposed it, arguing that its own Sounds management plan, worked out after years of public consultation, would be breached.

Earlier this month Pelorus Sound teenager Leona Plaisier delivered an 11,000 signature petition opposing the application to Parliament.

The Government has backed the aquaculture industry's growth targets and Primary Industries Minister David Carter told the industry's annual conference in Nelson that he had been following the King Salmon application closely "and I'm keen to see a positive outcome".

Dr Smith, who was the architect of the streamlined EPA process while environment minister, said the draft decision was positive for Nelson and the top of the south in that it would create valuable jobs in an export industry, bringing new wealth.

"I'm not surprised King Salmon are disappointed. However, it gives them the opportunity to embark on a pretty strong growth plan for the next three or four years, and to show the Sounds and broader top of the south community that they are good corporate citizens and that the environmental effects are quite manageable."

The decision was not a surprise in that nobody had been picking that King Salmon would get no expansion approved, or that it would get full approval. He would not close the door on further expansion down the track, he said.

Sustain Our Sounds has said the large volume of reading material and lengthy hearing meant the decision-making process was stacked against the public.

King Salmon chief executive

Grant has repeatedly complained of the application's costs in meeting the challenges of the opponents.

Dr Smith said the fact that both sides had criticised the process suggested "we've probably got it about right".

The danger with the old system of multiple appeal rights and separate processes for plan changes and resource consents meant that environmental objectors could "almost kill off any development proposal by attrition and dragging it out ... I am pleased that this has come to a conclusion within 12 months."

The 356-page draft report and decision, plus seven appendices, are now open for comment by New Zealand King Salmon, all submitters, the conservation and environment ministers and Marlborough District Council.

They can make comment on minor and technical aspects of the report only. Once the final report and decision are issued appeals are only possible on points of law.

The Marlborough Express