New Zealand King Salmon is paving the way for the Crown to allocate marine farming space to iwi, lawyer Derek Nolan said yesterday.
Mr Nolan was speaking at an Environmental Protection Authority board of inquiry hearing in Blenheim to consider whether the company should be allowed to develop eight new salmon farms in an area of the Marlborough Sounds where aquaculture is prohibited. It has also applied to develop a ninth farm in a zone where aquaculture is allowed.
"For every hectare of space approved for New Zealand King Salmon, an equivalent of 20 per cent of that space will be made available to iwi elsewhere," Mr Nolan said in an opening submission for the company.
Every hectare declined represented a lost opportunity for iwi. The board should give weight to this impact on the social and economic wellbeing of Maori.
In September last year, the Crown gazetted areas of new aquaculture space which would be set aside to meet Treaty of Waitangi settlement obligations, Mr Nolan said.
King Salmon desperately needed water space to grow and supply market demand, and space was not available in areas where the Marlborough District Council allowed aquaculture, or elsewhere in New Zealand.
Submitters challenged NZ King Salmon for seeking to change a Marlborough Sounds plan developed with over 30 years of community input, Mr Nolan said.
However, marine farming provisions in the 13-year-old plan were centred on mussel farming.
"Sitting on the status quo is the antithesis of planning," he said.
Opponents presented the NZ King Salmon application as privatisation of public space, but that was no different to the Picton, Waikawa and Havelock marinas providing moorings for private yachts and launches, Mr Nolan said.
The company was willing to pay coastal occupation charges to cover water monitoring costs but the new farms should not be singled out. Neither 500-plus marine farms nor marinas paid coastal charges.
Some people feared if the King Salmon farms were approved, this would pave the way for a wave of applications for marine farms in prohibited areas of the Sounds. However, given the cost and effort required, this was unlikely, Mr Nolan said.
The company's aquaculture general manager, Mark Preece, said it could lift production from about 8750 tonnes a year to about 22,000 tonnes.
NZ King Salmon operations and contracts manager Mark Gillard, who managed the proposed expansion project, said demand for fish grown by the company was outstripping ability to supply.
To expand, the company needed new farms in Queen Charlotte and Pelorus Sounds and Port Gore in the outer Sounds, where the Marlborough District Council had prohibited aquaculture.
The company investigated converting mussel farms to salmon farms in a review in 1998, but of the 500 or so farms, only one might have met key criteria.
Mr Gillard said proposed sites were mostly deep, because there was more space to farm fish; cool, so fish efficiently converted feed to flesh and stayed healthy; fast-flowing, to wash away waste; sheltered, so cages were not damaged by swells; distant from significant landscapes, homes and baches; and unlikely to clash with uses like boating, fishing and tourism.
An EPA board of inquiry chaired by Judge Gordon Whiting will decide whether King Salmon can develop the farms. The other board members are Helen Beaumont, Mark Briggs, Edward Ellison and Mark Farnsworth.
The hearing is being held at the Marlborough Civic Theatre and is expected to take 10 weeks.
Of about 1400 submissions on the NZ King Salmon application, 800 were opposed, Judge Whiting said.
"This reflects the tensions that have arisen in the community, tensions that we as a board have to work through during the hearing, tensions we have to adjudicate on," he said.
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