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Forest & Bird concerned at giant salmon farms decision

20 December 2012

Forest & Bird concerned at Marlborough Sounds giant salmon farms decision

Conservation organisation Forest & Bird is concerned that a significant area of the Marlborough Sounds will be ruined by four large salmon farms given the go-ahead by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA has granted interim permission for four new salmon farms to be built in the Marlborough Sounds, despite evidence from residents, environmental and boating groups, the Marlborough District Council, and the Department of Conservation, that the plans would spoil natural values and ignore the wishes of the local community.

However, permission was declined for another four of the eight new farms that New Zealand King Salmon wants to build.

Forest & Bird’s Top of the South Field Officer, Debs Martin, says she has mixed feelings about the decision.

“It’s great the commissioners have been convinced that four of the new farms would ruin the places they were going to be built. So in that sense, it’s a victory,” she says.

“However, four sites in the Marlborough Sounds will soon be blighted by large-scale industrial activity, on a scale not experienced before.

“Port Gore, for example, is a wilderness area that should remain so. Applications to build marine farms in Port Gore have been turned down before because it is considered an outstanding landscape. We are at a loss to know what’s changed.

“If Port Gore can’t be protected, are no unspoilt areas in the Marlborough Sounds safe from development?” she asks.

Debs Martin says the decision runs roughshod over the area’s district plan, negotiated by the community over a decade, about where industrial marine activity could occur in the Sounds.

“Under the district plan, these sites were protected. The process of private plan changes by vested interests makes for poor and piecemeal outcomes,” she says.

“The proposed farms are large, and will have portacabins, nets, and a large number of boats operating around them. They will fundamentally change the nature of where they are sited.

“This process also highlights the difficulties in dealing with applications under the EPA.

“Normal council processes would allow small groups and individuals to submit on consents, and have them heard in an accessible and fair manner. The NZKS hearing became a quasi Environment Court where only well-paid lawyers could keep pace,” Debs Martin says.

The EPA’s decision grants permission for farms to be built in Papatua (Port Gore), Ngamahau, Waitata and Richmond. Permission was not given for farms to be built in Kaitapeha, Ruaomoko, Kaitira and Tapipi. Permission was also declined to convert the White Horse Rock mussel farm to a salmon farm.

The EPA’s findings can be found here: http://www.epa.govt.nz/Resource-management/king-salmon

ENDS

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