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NZ's largest offshore marine farm approved


Hon Jim Andeton
Minister of Fisheries
Hon Steve Chadwick
Minister of Conservation

17 October 2008
Media statement

New Zealand's largest offshore marine farm approved

Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton and Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick said the largest marine farm in New Zealand could have the potential to provide 500 new jobs.

The ministers today announced that Eastern Seafarms Ltd has received final approval for the staged development of 3,800 hectares of marine farming space 8.5km offshore of Opotiki for mussel farming and spat catching.

"The development of this large marine farm will boost the Bay of Plenty regional economy, especially in the Opotiki area, bringing jobs and investment both in the construction of the farm and its ongoing operation," Jim Anderton said.

The Whakatohea Maori Trust Board is the majority shareholder (54%) in the farm along with Sealord Shellfish Ltd and NZ Seafarms Ltd.

"The development of this venture has the potential to bring large benefits to local Maori, both in their majority ownership and also through increased employment and career opportunities,"said Steve Chadwick.

"This farm will offer excellent opportunities to undertake further research and development into offshore marine farming, which is still in its early stages in New Zealand," said Jim Anderton.

"Off shore marine farming has huge potential for the future growth of New Zealand's aquaculture industry. Recent trials have proved very promising and I am excited about the potential of this farm for offshore marine farming elsewhere," he said.

This new farm will be developed in stages over the coming years. The permits initially allow for 8 "blocks", equating to 256 longlines over 1,600 hectares to be developed.There is a requirement in the farm's resource consent for monitoring in between each stage being developed. This monitoring will check for adverse impacts on the seafloor, water column, marine mammals and fish stocks in the area.

"The staged development and ongoing monitoring will allow for sustainable aquaculture development in the Bay of Plenty while ensuring the environment isn't compromised," said Steve Chadwick.

"If any adverse effects are detected the development will cease and monitoring will continue," she said.

Eastern Seafarms Ltd lodged their application before the national aquaculture moratorium in November 2001 and the Aquaculture Reform Legislation that was introduced in 2004. As a result, it was processed under the old legislation which required consents under the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Fisheries Act 1983.


--


BACKGROUND

The application required several stages of approval before it could commence operation. This included Resource Management Act approval from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, and the Minister of Conservation. Approvals were granted in 2002 but subsequently appealed to the Environment Court.

It also required a marine farming and spat catching permit under the Fisheries Act 1983 from the Ministry of Fisheries Chief Executive. An approval for 3,800 hectares was provisionally granted in December 2006.

Following the Chief Executive’s decision, the parties who had appealed the application were able to resolve their issues and negotiate agreements to submit to the Environment Court. The Environment Court upheld the regional council’s decision and recommendation to the Minister of Conservation on 15 September 2008.

Final approval of the proposal was required from the Minister of Conservation because of the large size of the proposed farm. Under the Coastal Policy Statement, any proposal involving an area greater than 50 hectares is considered to restrict public access and is classified as a restricted coastal activity, which requires approval by the minister. Minister Steve Chadwick approved the application on 8 October 2008.

Approval of the RMA consents then allowed the Ministry of Fisheries Chief Executive to issue the marine farming and spat catching permit, subject to the conditions identified in his assessment undertaken in 2006 and by the Environment Court.

Because of the newness and uncertainties around large scale offshore marine farming, all the regulatory authorities involved and the Environment Court recommended staged development with adaptive management.

Who are Eastern Seafarms?
Eastern Seafarms Limited are a joint partnership between local iwi and a number of other seafood companies. The Wakatohea Maori Trust Board holds 54% of the shares, Sealord Shellfish Limited holds 26% of the shares, and NZ Seafarms Limited holds 20% of the shares.

Are there any other large offshore marine farms around New Zealand?
This is the third large offshore marine farm to be approved under the RMA and the second to be granted permits under the Fisheries Act. At 3800ha it is, however, the largest. The other two include a farm owned by Napier Mussels limited of 2469 ha off the coast of Napier, and Pegasus Bay, which still requires a marine farming permit, of 2695 ha (this one is on the outer limits of the coastal marine area, approximately 12 nautical miles offshore).

Is offshore marine farming viable?
Although offshore aquaculture is economically unproven to date, several aquaculture industry players believe it is likely to become economic in the near future. Research trials conducted in Hawke Bay and Bay of Plenty on the offshore farming of a number of species are proving promising.

The applicants for Eastern Seafarms are keen to begin development of this site. This farm has the potential to lead the way for offshore marine farming elsewhere

Government is working in partnership with Aquaculture New Zealand to help facilitate continued research into offshore aquaculture and making it commercially viable.

How will the staged development and adaptive management work?
The marine farm will be developed in five stages with monitoring and adaptive management, according to the conditions on the structures permit, as follows:
Stage Number of Blocks Maximum number of lines
1A 1 5
1 8 256
2 16 504
3 16 704
4 16 984


Stage 1 cannot occur until there has been a baseline seafloor survey undertaken at 30 sites across the full 3800 hectares. The development of each of the subsequent stages, 2, 3 and 4, will not occur until at least three years of monitoring by a party approved by Environment Bay of Plenty has been undertaken. The monitoring reports must confirm that the development is not having a significant adverse effect on the water column, seafloor environment or marine mammals. If the monitoring has not been undertaken satisfactorily or a significant adverse effect on any one of those three matters is shown in the monitoring, then development of the farm cannot proceed to the next stage and monitoring will continue. The permit holder must take any steps recommended in the monitoring reports as directed by the council.


ENDS

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