Ministry for Primary Industries releases proposal to relocate six King Salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds

Salmon in a King Salmon hatchery, in Marlborough.
SUPPLIED

Salmon in a King Salmon hatchery, in Marlborough.

The central government wants to relocate up to six salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds, forcing a change to the region's aquaculture rules. 

The Ministry for Primary Industries has said moving New Zealand King Salmon farms in the Pelorus Sound and the Tory Channel area to different locations would bring environmental and economic benefits. 

Waitata Bay, in the Marlborough Sounds, would not be moved.
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ

Waitata Bay, in the Marlborough Sounds, would not be moved.

The plan comes after months of discussions with the Marlborough Sounds Salmon Working Group, which included representatives from the Marlborough District Council, MPI, community and interest groups, iwi, and NZ King Salmon. 

Kenepuru and Central Sounds Residents Association member Hanneke Kroon, who sat on the working group, was concerned about the proposal, saying it bypassed the usual safeguards. 

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One new salmon farm is proposed for the Tory Channel: two would be removed.
SUPPLIED

One new salmon farm is proposed for the Tory Channel: two would be removed.

Relocating the farms would require amending the council's Marlborough Sounds Resource Management Plan, which the ministry could alter by recommending regulations under the Resource Management Act. 

"It bypasses the council, it bypasses the Environment Court," Kroon said. ​

According to an MPI consultation document, consent applications would not be publicly notified as they would usually be during the resource consent process, for residents to make submissions.

Some of the proposed new sites in the Pelorus Sound area.
SUPPLIED

Some of the proposed new sites in the Pelorus Sound area.

However the council could still give "limited notification" to any affected person, to enable them to have their say. 

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"The regulations will address the substantive effects of salmon farming, and the public has the opportunity to input at this stage," the document said. 

There will be an eight-week consultation period on the proposal, beginning today. 

Kroon said she understood the salmon working group was set up to address best practice issues, and the proposal that had come out of the discussions - six new farms - seemed completely different.

The entrance to Pelorus Sound had a rich array of wildlife, including the rare king shag, and she was concerned about the salmon farms' effects on wildlife. 

"This whole idea is to the detriment of the Pelorus Sound," she said. 

The salmon working group was set up last year, in response to a Cawthron Institute report which revealed King Salmon's Forsyth, Ruakaka and Otanerau farms were not running in a way that enabled them to meet best management practice guidelines.

The report found pollution under pens and seabed enrichment, caused by fish waste falling on the seabed and uneaten fish food.​

King Salmon has resource consents for 11 salmon farms within the Sounds, and the MPI consultation document said three other low-flow areas were also predicted to have issues meeting the best-practice standards. 

Existing King Salmon farm sites which could be relocated are Ruakaka Bay, Otanerau Bay, Forsyth Bay, Waihinau Bay, and two farms in Crail Bay which have not been stocked since 2011. 

Potential new sites are Blowhole Point North and South, the middle of the Waitata channel, the southern part of Richmond Bay, and Horseshoe Bay, as well as Tio Point in the Tory Channel.​

The consultation paper said moving farms to sites where the water was deeper, with higher flows, would provide for a more sustainable, productive, and resilient industry. 

"To secure a consent to farm at a new site, applicants would have to relinquish consents and close down operations at an existing lower flow site," the document said. 

Kroon said she was worried if the proposal was implemented the residents' association would have no recourse apart from the High Court, which would be expensive. 

A Marlborough District Council spokeswoman said the council was satisfied the proposal put forward reflected various perspectives.  

"The consultative process getting underway now allows for more input from those various viewpoints," she said. 

King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne said the new proposal had the dual benefit of being better for the environment and better for the company. 

In the proposal there was no overall increase in total surface area used for salmon farming in the Sounds. 

MPI predicted the relocated farms could contribute up to $49 million annually to Marlborough's regional GDP, and up to 511 fulltime jobs. 

"Economic gains would occur over about 10 to 15 years as the sites are relocated and then developed in stages," the consultation paper said. 

Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith said he was confident the process had been handled appropriately, and was satisfied there were both environmental and economic benefits to the proposal. 

Kenepuru and Central Sounds Residents Association marine committee member Trevor Offen was worried and said the mid-channel farm would raise a multitude of issues in terms of navigation and visual concerns. 

It was generally understood Horseshoe Bay and Richmond Bay were also too warm to farm salmon, Offen said. 

However Rosewarne said the company's high-flow site in the Pelorus Sound area got good results, despite the temperature. 

"The flow in the area seems to make up for that." 

The MPI consultation paper said King Salmon would be required to provided advanced real-time monitoring buoys to ensure cumulative water quality effects were monitored and managed. 

Public drop-in sessions would be held during the consultation period, and hui would be held with iwi authorities. 

Confirmed dates, times and venues for public drop-in sessions and public hearings would be available on the MPI website. 

Written submissions had to be received by 5pm on March 27. 

A  Marlborough Salmon Farm Relocation Advisory Panel comprised of independent resource management experts would hear submissions.

 - The Marlborough Express

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