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Coastline Up For Grabs In Aquaculture Legislation

by the Fish Site Editor
19 January 2011, at 12:00am

NEW ZEALAND - New Zealand wilderness coastline is under attack from the governments plans to speed up the development of marine farms, Forest & Bird said today.

People concerned about protecting the marine environment and coastal views have only until Friday, February 11 to send a submission on the Aquaculture Legislation Amendment Bill (No 3) to Parliament’s primary production select committee.

The bill, introduced to Parliament in November, will loosen the rules for marine farming and encourage the industry’s development through government handouts, while limiting the opportunities for the public to comment on proposals in their area.

“This will lead to another gold rush for coastal space. We will lose iconic coastal seascapes, clean coastal waters and many special seafloor communities,” said Forest & Bird North Island Conservation Manager Mark Bellingham.

“It will also have serious consequences for coastal boat owners and fishers, who will have to navigate their way around rafts of fish and mussel farms,” Dr Bellingham said.

He added that Forest & Bird supports the development of aquaculture in suitable areas but the proposed legislation lacks necessary environmental protections.

More marine farms would mean more buoys, longlines, shellfish frames and sea cages in coastal waters for raising mussels, oysters and finfish. On the seabed, the build up of waste food and fish faeces will create a black lifeless desert.

Increased nutrients from fish farms can lead to algal blooms, affecting all marine life in a much wider area.

The bill will reduce the time and opportunities for the public to comment on marine farms in their area, and will allow marine farms to be developed almost anywhere. If a regional coastal plan prohibits marine farming, the Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister can change the plan.

Marine farmers will be allowed leases up to 35 years, with rights of renewal and they will not be charged resource rentals for occupying public seabed and water space.

“The key issues that haven’t been addressed in this bill are identifying areas which should be closed to aquaculture and creating a fair process that allows the views of communities, environmental groups and coastal users to be heard,” Dr Bellingham said.

Marine farms need to be excluded from areas with significant marine and coastal ecosystems, marine mammal feeding and migration areas, significant coastal scenery and important recreational waters.

Government grants to industry should be matched by funding to address the concerns of recreational, environmental and community groups. More opportunity must be given to the public to comment on marine farming proposals to ensure they are sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Attempts to kick-start the industry in the 1990s were unsuccessful because the government relaxed planning controls on aquaculture to such an extent that large speculative proposals up to 10,000 hectares emerged, leading to outrage amongst fishers, boaties and the public alike.

A clampdown under the Resource Management Act followed, effectively stopping new aquaculture development.

“Fast-tracking the law and bypassing important processes now will return us to the chaos of the 1990s or another moratorium. This could be the end of the coast as we know it – the end of the golden summer!” Dr Bellingham said.

the Fish Site Editor