Council fights fish farming 'gold rush'
The Marlborough District Council says in opposing King Salmon's expansion plans it is defending the integrity of its district plan and the beauty of the Marlborough Sounds from a "gold rush" of fin farming applications.
The country's largest fin fish farmer has asked the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to approve its expansion plans in the Marlborough Sounds but the area it wants to use is prohibited for aquaculture under the district council's plan.
The EPA administers applications for major infrastructure projects of national significance, and regulates new organisms and hazardous substances and chemicals.
The Marlborough District Council disputes King Salmon's contention it is "lobbying for the expansion of King Salmon's farms to be rejected".
Peter Jerram, chairman of the council's environment committee, said because King Salmon requested that the EPA process was used, the council was able to be a submitter, like anyone else.
"In this case, the council sees a clear need to defend the integrity of its district plan."
The plan splits the Marlborough Sounds into two zones with zone two allowing aquaculture and zone one not, instead allowing for navigation, recreation and preservation of the environment.
King Salmon's application is to change the district plan and to create a new zone entirely for itself, within the prohibited zone, Jerram said.
Grant Rosewarne, King Salmon's chief executive, said last week the company was shaken by the council's decision to oppose a plan it previously supported.
However, Jerram said: "The council never supported that approach, as Mr Rosewarne claims. There is no right of appeal to the EPA Board decision. The council really has no other choice than to oppose that plan change."
If King Salmon's application to expand into the prohibited zone was successful, it would create a legal precedent, because this was the first EPA case in a New Zealand coastal area.
"This will allow others to follow the same path. There are already 15 sites gazetted by the Government for iwi, all in the prohibited zone. They are waiting on the outcome of this case. If it is successful, the Sounds will face a gold rush of applications, and the nature of them will change forever. That is why the MDC is submitting in opposition."
King Salmon operates seven salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds, producing almost 9000 tonnes of salmon a year and employing 450 staff, mainly in Nelson.