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Marine Farmers Want Environmental Action

15 July 2004

Marine Farmers Want Environmental Action

Increasing human pollution of New Zealand’s coastal environment has led a New Zealand marine farming leader to suggest that members of his organisations contest every application for new development in areas where sewage systems are deficient.

New Zealand Aquaculture Council Chairman and Oyster Industry Association President Callum McCallum says the latest incidents of human waste discharge forcing the closure of Bay of Islands oyster farms has brought a long term, nationwide, problem into focus.

“It seems that development too frequently occurs without appropriate investment in systems that protect the coastal marine environment and I see no alternative now but to try and force local authorities in affected areas to invest in adequate infrastructure before they allow further development.”

Mr McCallum says marine farmers and others concerned about the health of the coastal environment should consider doing this by contesting any new Resource Management Act applications involving discharge consents to ensure protection of water quality to the maximum extent possible.

He says some people will no doubt think that the solution to the problem is to get rid of aquaculture. “They should instead think logically about this problem. In reality, marine farmers are the ‘Canary in the coal mine’ of the marine environment. This pollution is flashing a big red light to New Zealander’s that parts of their environment are in danger of literally turning to crap.”

“Marine farming requires its life-blood – water – to be unpolluted. But if the marine farms weren’t there the pollution would still be entering the environment and the food chain. There would just be more pollution warning signs popping up on our beaches.”

I think it is offensive to all NZ’ers that District and Regional Councils are allowing the level of sewage discharges to continue at the existing rate. NZ’ers are a coastal nation we pride ourselves on our clean green image which in reality is at risk. Councils are allowing the “clean” to disappear from the NZ brand which sells not only tourism but many of our primary products overseas.

“The issues reflect decisions taken over a number of years and I think reflect the fact that many local authorities have lost the plot in regard to spending priorities. They have to get back to providing essential services, such as sound sewage systems to protect our environment.”

“For too long marine farmers have been made to feel guilty for using the marine environment to create businesses, jobs, and ultimately foreign exchange earnings that benefit all New Zealanders, including those in communities that apparently then feel it is ok to flush their toilets on them.”

Mr McCallum says he is perplexed by a “deafening silence” from individuals and organisations that claim to care about the environment.

“Why are Greens, economic and tourism development officials, and many local authority environmental “watchdogs” so quiet about this?”

“They should, for example, find it bitterly ironic that Bay of Island oyster farmers have their livelihoods on hold because the Far North District Council apparently can’t afford an adequate sewage system, while Tourism New Zealand uses “Pure” branding to attract people there.”

Mr McCallum says groaning infrastructure that is not managing to keep pace with development pressures is not just a problem in Northland. “New Zealand marine farmers have been warning for sometime that pollution from untreated waste has the potential to erode the health of the marine environment.”

The members of the New Zealand Aquaculture Council which Mr McCallum chairs grow and sell seafood worth more than $300 million a year.

ENDS

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