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Feedback Sought On Proposed Marlborough Sounds’ Aquaculture Variations

Proposed plan variations for managing marine and finfish farming in the Marlborough Sounds are now open for public submission.

Variations 1 (marine farming) and 1A (finfish farming) to the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan have been publicly notified today. This comes after two years of work by the Marlborough Aquaculture Review Working Group (MARWG).

The MARWG included members of the marine farming industry, Marlborough Sounds’ community organisations and central government agencies. The Ministers of Fisheries, Conservation, Environment and Transport, along with Te Tau Ihu iwi were also consulted.

An extension to the usual submission process will give more time for the public to have their say - the public consultation closes on 26 February 2021.

Planning, Finance & Community Committee Chair Councillor Mark Peters acknowledged the considerable work of the MARWG in developing the recommendations for the Council. “This is a major milestone and incredibly important going forward for the management of our coastal marine spaces,” he said.

In the variation, the MARWG and the Council have produced a spatial allocation for the majority of existing marine farms. The allocation is reflected in new Aquaculture Management Areas (AMA). Existing marine farms will have to be located within AMA when they re-consent. This may involve moving lines or, in some cases, farms to relocate into a relevant AMA.

An interactive smart map has been developed to assist people to view the AMA relative to the current location of existing marine farms.

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“The variation provides certainty to marine farmers around the re-consenting of existing marine farms. It has been a delicate balance to make sure we meet the needs of the community and the environment as well as industry. The variation also provides certainty to the remainder of the community that the enclosed waters of the Marlborough Sounds are fully allocated. No application for resource consent can be made for a new marine farm outside of an AMA,” said Clr Peters.

A system for monitoring and managing the cumulative effects of marine farming has also been developed and is included in the variation.

The variation process began in June 2016 when the Council decided the provisions for marine and finfish farming contained in the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan should be removed. “The Council was not satisfied these adequately gave effect to Policy 8 of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement,” said Clr Peters.

Policy 8 recognises the significant existing and potential contribution of aquaculture to the social, economic and cultural well-being of people and communities, and directs that such activities are provided for in appropriate places within regional planning documents.

“Council at the time decided instead to take more time and put further effort into reviewing the appropriateness of existing marine farms in their current locations. The work of the MARWG was undertaken carefully and diligently, as our coastal environment also supports significant landscape, ecological, recreational and cultural values,” he said.

As part of the review, finfish farming was not considered as this was covered by the Minister of Fisheries Section 360 process which considered relocation of the existing New Zealand King Salmon farms in low flow sites. “However, in providing its recommendations, the MARWG did state that the finfish provisions would ideally form part of the variation in order to ensure all marine farming activity is catered for, and the Council agreed with that,” said Clr Peters.

The Council looked to the report and recommendations from the Marlborough Sounds Salmon Farm Relocation Advisory Panel. “The report represents the best available public information on the appropriateness of coastal space in the Marlborough Sounds for salmon farming,” said Clr Peters.

New National Environmental Standards for Marine Aquaculture also came into effect on 1 December 2020. This makes most existing marine farms a ‘restricted discretionary activity’ unless they are located in an inappropriate area. “The MARWG assessed the appropriateness of all Marlborough’s existing marine farms and recommended these be given ‘controlled activity’ status for re-consenting in appropriate areas,” said Clr Peters.

“For reasons of fairness, existing marine farmers will get the first opportunity to utilise the new AMAs for re-consenting purposes.”

Clr Peters encouraged people to make their views on the proposals known. “The Council can only make changes requested in submission, so it is really important that as many people as possible consider the variations and make a submission, irrespective of whether they support or oppose them.”

The public can access the proposed variations and background material at the Council offices or public libraries in Blenheim, Picton, Havelock and Rai Valley. The information is also available on the Council website at

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