NZ bill amendment gives go-ahead to aquaculture growth

The pristine waterways of Marlborough Sounds could soon support a thriving aquaculture industry.
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A new aquaculture bill could mean salmon farms are approved in areas of the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand.

The Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Act (No3) streamlines consent procedures for new marine space, reduces costs to the industry and provides incentives for development, the Government says. It will come into effect on October 1.

The Government has a target for the national aquaculture industry to earn $1 billion a year by 2025 – triple the current amount.

Advocates from government and the marine farming industry have been working to remove red tape, but opponents see the new bill as opening the door for huge multinational companies to compromise the environment.

New Zealand King Salmon plans to apply to the Environment Protection Authority to open up new areas of the Sounds to farming. It wants to increase its water space from around six to 18 surface hectares.

That would allow the company to create about eight new salmon farms and double annual production to 15,000 tonnes by 2015. King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne said he was delighted with the new bill. The company could make up half of the Government's billion-dollar goal, Mr Rosewarne has said.

Marine Farming Association chief executive Graham Coates said he didn't expect there to be a big increase in the number of new farm applications in Marlborough because most of the space in the permitted coastal marine zone was taken up.

Only if King Salmon or another company was permitted to farm outside this zone would an increase in farming be seen, he said.

Because the Marlborough District Council had been dealing with aquaculture issues for 30 years their policies wouldn't be changed as much by the new bill as other areas that were newer to aquaculture, Mr Coates said.

Aquaculture New Zealand chief executive Mike Burrell agreed that the bill wouldn't spark a big increase in applications in this region. It empowered councils to plan for aquaculture and they would still be in control of resource consent, he said.

Guardian of the Sounds chairman Peter Beech said the Government was opening the door for huge multinational companies and was sacrificing New Zealand's best asset – its environment – in order to make short term economic gains.

The amount of water space lost by recreational users, pollution from salmon farms and the risk of disease from intensive salmon farming would all increase, he said.

According to Beech, wild fish stocks were dwindling, but rather than fixing the damage caused to the habitats, the Government was allowing even more damage to be done to the environment by marine farming.

Green Party candidate Steffan Browning said the passing of the bill and any resulting increase in fish farms would 'foul the nest' of the Sounds and limit the number of areas in which people could enjoy themselves.