A Marlborough Sounds resident has rubbished claims that a proposal to shift salmon farms in her backyard is the most popular resource management application in New Zealand aquaculture history.
Pelorus Sound woman Hanneke Kroon claims thousands of people are against the relocation plan, but because they made joint submissions, the popularity of the plan is skewed.
New Zealand King Salmon staff made about 140 individual submissions on the Ministry for Primary Industries proposal, according to a summary document.
Kroon claims the staff submissions, which could be more than the document suggests, significantly contributed to 69 per cent of the 591 submissions in favour of the ministry’s plan, first announced in January.
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However, New Zealand King Salmon chief executive Grant Rosewarne slammed her criticisms as “hollow” and “desperate”.
Most people who submitted in favour of moving the six King Salmon farms were also part of a group or family, Rosewarne said.
King Salmon sought more space for salmon farms several years ago, and the case went to a Board of Inquiry. That time there were 725 submissions opposing them, this time numbers had dropped to 157.
It was not hard to write a submission, Rosewarne said.
“You just have to write three words in an email.”
Rosewarne said earlier this month employees were free to make submissions if they wanted to, but not every employee made them and no-one was forced to make them.
Kroon, a Kenepuru and Central Sounds Residents Association member, said her group made a joint submission with the Pelorus Boating Club.
The association had 280 members, while the boating club had more than 500 members, Kroon said.
Groups such as the Environmental Defence Society and Forest and Bird, which also made submissions, represented a large sector of the community, she said.
Fellow conservation groups Guardians of the Sounds and Friends of Nelson Haven also put in submissions opposing the plan.
Guardians of the Sounds member Claire Pinder said there were “several hundred” members of her group.
“[All of the residents’ associations, recreational fishers and environment groups] actually represent several thousand people who live or have homes in Marlborough or are active users of the Marlborough Sounds,” Pinder said.
When it came to the hearings, 55 people, businesses and organisations opposing the plan wanted to be heard, while only 37 people supporting the plan wanted to speak.
“The submitters opposing the plans are much more committed, they want their voice heard and many are willing to put in the extra effort of coming to Blenheim to talk to the commissioners,” Kroon said.
Some organisations, such as the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce, put in submissions supporting the plan.
General manager Stephen Gullery said there were more than 1300 email addresses on the chamber’s database, but would not say how many members there were.
“We submitted solely on a commercial basis,” he said. “I understand others in the Sounds have other issues.”
Rosewarne said compared to King Salmon’s previous court case around salmon farms the proposal was “much more positive”, as it was based on creating a better environmental outcome.
Kroon thought one of the most important submissions was from Forest and Bird, on the king shag population in the Pelorus Sound.
One of the proposed salmon farm sites was only 3 kilometres from a king shag colony and would have a “real detrimental effect on the feeding habitat”.
“Do we want to have king shag in the Marlborough Sounds or do we want to have king salmon? It’s one or the other,” she said.
Salmon farm hearings are continuing this week, with King Salmon, Guardians of the Sounds, and Green MP Steffan Browning due to speak on Wednesday.