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Parts of North Off-Limits to Aquaculture

by Ellen Hardy
16 April 2008, at 1:00am

NEW ZEALAND - Parts of Northland including Whangarei Harbour and the eastern Bay of Islands - will be off-limits to marine farming. The ruling is in line with community wishes and supported by the Northland Regional Council.

Councillors attending a monthly meeting in Whangarei today confirmed a number of recommendations from a four-member Hearings Committee which late last year considered more than 330 submissions on the Council’s proposals to establish an aquaculture planning framework for Northland.

Legally, new marine farms can only be developed in areas formally designated as Aquaculture Management Areas (AMAs) by Regional Councils. Today’s decisions mean the Northland Regional Council is drawing close to the end of a lengthy process designed to ensure evaluation criteria it uses to consider applications for AMAs are as robust as possible.

Regional Councillor Lorraine Hill, who chaired the Hearings Committee, says among key concerns raised by submitters had been that the NRC’s plans did not specifically ban marine farming from certain parts of Northland.

That changed today when Councillors agreed with the Hearings Committee’s recommendations to include a raft of ‘AMA restriction areas’ in which aquaculture will effectively be off-limits.

These include marine reserves and areas originally identified in the Council’s four-year-old Regional Coastal Plan as inappropriate for aquaculture, including:

  • Whangarei Harbour
  • The eastern Bay of Islands and inner Doubtless Bay
  • Houhora, Parengarenga and Rangaunu Harbours
  • Large parts of Kaipara Harbour
Cr Hill says the only real exemption to the ‘AMA restriction areas’ will be a provision allowing for small, non-commercial marae-based aquaculture proposals. However, even these will only be allowed if they can show they will have negligible impact on the important values of these areas.

Cr Hill says while the new provisions will protect important areas of Northland’s coast, there will still be many parts of the region that are potentially available for aquaculture.

“In these areas, the plan contains robust provisions to guide decisions and should give both would-be marine farmers – and the community at large – a great deal more certainty.”

Cr Hill says the Hearings Committee’s decisions will now be notified and a summary of the decisions provided to every submitter. The decisions are then open to appeal for 30 working days.

The decision also reconfirmed that the ‘Invited Private Plan Change’ (IPPC) process will be the main way that AMAs are created in Northland.

Under this approach (adopted by the Council more than two years ago) would-be marine farmers – not Northland’s ratepayers – will have to pay the costs of having areas zoned as an AMA.

Ellen Hardy