New Zealand King Salmon 'pretty much resigned' to a post-election farm decision
Time is running out for the Government to decide on a controversial salmon farm relocation plan in the Marlborough Sounds.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has two weeks before Parliament dissolves on August 23 to trigger the legislation needed for the proposal to go ahead.
If voters turn away from National come election day, on September 23, then the decision to relocate up to six New Zealand King Salmon farms could fall with another party.
King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne said "we're pretty much resigned" to a decision being made after the election, adding he was disappointed by the delay.
* Ministry for Primary Industries releases proposal to relocate six King Salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds
* Salmon farm relocation opponents consider judicial review if Primary Industries Minister backs proposal
* New Zealand King Salmon says failing farms should be moved to Tory Channel
It meant the company would have to spend another summer farming in low-flow sites in the Marlborough Sounds, he said.
The Ministry for Primary Industries was proposing to relocate up to six low-flow farms to higher flow areas in the Sounds, creating better environmental outcomes.
Rosewarne said the proposal would also create 300 new jobs, and he was surprised a decision did not appear to be forthcoming before the election.
"It's a pretty good news story so I would have thought, having put a lot of effort into it, they would have wanted it to have come out before the election and get the credit," he said.
"It ticks all the boxes; economic outcomes, social outcomes, environmental outcomes. If New Zealand can't say 'yes' to that, there's not much they can say 'yes' to."
For the proposal to go ahead, Guy has to trigger Section 360A of the Resource Management Act to overrule aquaculture rules set by the Marlborough District Council.
Opponents have been highly critical of the process, with at least two groups saying they would not rule out taking a judicial review if the minister pushed ahead with the relocation plan.
But first he has to make a decision. A panel of commissioners convened by the minister was originally expected to deliver their report and recommendations in late June.
"The minister has received a copy of the report which will be formally presented to him in person by the commissioners later this week," a spokesman for Guy said.
He would not say whether Guy intended to make a decision prior to Parliament being dissolved, just that the Government would need to carefully consider the outcomes of the report.
"This is a complex issue and it's too early to give a definitive timeframe on when any final decisions will be made," he said.
Labour primary industries spokesman Damien O'Connor said, in principle, Labour supported the relocation of farms to higher-flow sites and the ensuing increase in productivity.
However, he was highly critical of the process, saying it should have been done through the normal RMA channels and not through ministerial intervention.
"Unfortunately it's become a blatant political process, and King Salmon have backed one horse, the National Government, to push this through prior to the election," he said.
"That's stirred up a lot of resentment in the wider community, among the environmental sector in particular.
"And that's unfortunate because I think it's distracted from the debate around the central issue, which is how can we do this in a sustainable way."
O'Connor said Labour had been briefed throughout the process by King Salmon and other interested parties, and that they would consider the proposal should they form a Government.
"We have to look at the whole proposal, and we're not in a position to prejudge the ministerial call, that would be something for a new Government and a new minister," he said.
"It has become a very political process, and that's unfortunate for what should be a star and growing industry for the economy."
Rosewarne said he felt the company had broad bipartisan support, but a change of Government would lead to more delays in the relocation process.
- The Marlborough Express