Three salmon farms 'disappointing'

BILL MOORE
Last updated 12:00 19/04/2014

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New Zealand King Salmon has won the right to set up three new marine farms in the Marlborough Sounds but says the Supreme Court decision allowing it to go ahead is "very bad" for aquaculture and primary industry.

The expansion would provide about 150 new jobs in Nelson and Marlborough, chief executive Grant Rosewarne said, and allow the company to eventually boost its output by about 70 per cent.

"I'm pleased that we have a strong growth trajectory for the foreseeable future. I'm really disappointed for the industry though, because I just don't see how the rest of the industry can do anything now," he said.

It was also a mixed result for the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) and Sustain Our Sounds (SOS), the two groups that had taken appeals to the court.

In decisions released at 4pm on Thursday, the court said new farms at Ngamahau (Tory Channel), Waitata and Richmond (Waitata Reach, Pelorus Sound) could proceed.

A farm at Papatua in Port Gore was declined. The EDS had appealed against that farm and said the decision was "an important victory for New Zealand's outstanding coasts".

EDS argued that the Environmental Protection Authority's board of inquiry was wrong to allow a salmon farm in what the board had found was an outstanding natural landscape.

"EDS is delighted that the Supreme Court has upheld the plain meaning of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement. It is now clear that national policies may put in place environmental bottom lines and decision makers must comply with those directions," it said.

But SOS was disappointed. Honorary chairman Danny Boulton said the court had agreed in principle with its argument that water quality had to be protected under the Resource Management Act (RMA).

"We are just disappointed that the court did not accept SOS's submissions that these particular proposals would not protect water quality in the Sounds."

It was alarming that the expansion could go ahead on "so little scientific evidence" of the environmental affects of salmon farming in the Sounds.

"The court's acceptance of environmental bottom lines under the RMA was welcome," Boulton said. SOS would not give up, and would work to ensure that the Marlborough District Council had the staff and resources needed to police and enforce the farms' consent conditions.

SOS deputy chair Rob Schuckard said the council should introduce occupancy charges for marine farmers, who were using public water space for free.

"It's like a factory not paying rates - they make money from using the Sounds and the public is left with the cost of the pollution."

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SOS wanted to work with all commercial and recreational Sounds users on an integrated management plan, he said.

King Salmon applied for plan changes and resource consents for salmon farms at nine sites in the Sounds, where it already has five farms.

The board of inquiry sat for nine weeks in 2012 and considered close to 1300 submissions, two-thirds in opposition, before eventually approving four farms. That decision was appealed first to the High Court and then the Supreme Court, which heard the case in November. A decision was expected by the end of last year but took an extra three months to be given.

- The Nelson Mail

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