I have been following National’s new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearing, the board of inquiry is considering an application by New Zealand King Salmon for a plan change and resource consents so it can create nine new fish farms in areas of the Marlborough Sounds where aquaculture is prohibited.
The EPA was set up basically to fast track projects of National significance, I’m surprised they didn’t have to be ‘Key’ projects of National significance, but I digress.
In the first place it is arguable if this application by an overseas owned company was of National significance, but they have been throwing money around like confetti and King Salmon expert Douglas Fairgray has predicted direct economic benefits worth $1.1 billion, altho this has now been almost halved to $600 million in another estimate.
We are now half way through the 10 week hearing and in the last week an interesting point have been raised by Lawyer Sue Grey, she said “the Takutai Moana (Marine and Coastal) Act 2011 was worded to protect existing users of the coastal marine area from being displaced by new users wanting to exclusively occupy space.”
Ms Grey quoted Attorney-General Chris Finlayson as saying at its first reading “the bill recognised swimming, boating, walking, fishing and other recreational activities in the public coastal marine area as a birthright of all New Zealanders.”
“That is why public access, fishing and navigation . . . are guaranteed,” Mr Finlayson had said.
Ms Grey said “she understood the bill did not allow variations to district or regional plans, if a prohibited activity requiring exclusive occupation of space was involved.”
“Allowing the plan change required for King Salmon to build eight of its nine proposed farms could be unlawful,” she said.
This could leave any decisions by the EPA possibly open to court action later.
Also over the last couple of days the setting of conditions for the new farms has come up with the Judge Gordon Whiting calling a meeting between lawyers, The conditions being around what King Salmon can and can’t do on each proposed new farm, but the problem is we are only half way through the hearing, so how can the panel make a decision on whether any of these farms can even go ahead before hearing all the evidence including conditions or make any conditions before hearing all the evidence.
National seem to have out smarted themselves again.