King Salmon's Marlborough Sounds consents upheld at appeal

The company applied for the consents in the wake of government policy changes intended to accelerate aquaculture investment.

Campaigners against a substantial increase in aquaculture in the Marlborough Sounds have lost their appeals against Environment Court rulings that had already upheld resource consents granted by a board of inquiry.

Justice Robert Dobson dismissed appeals mounted by the Environmental Defence Society and the Sustain Our Sounds lobby group, saying that while the board of inquiry had made findings at odds with the Marlborough District Council's plan for the area, that did not mean its conclusions were wrong.

"It was quite likely within Parliament's contemplation that a board of inquiry would attribute different values in the balance between preservation of environmental attributes and enabling economic activities, than would be applied by a local authority that had provided for these different interests in its relevant plan. That was certainly the case here," his judgment says.

King Salmon applied for the consents in the wake of government policy changes intended to accelerate aquaculture investment, which had been stalled for several years.

The Environmental Defence Society expressed disappointment at the decision, which had appealed consents at two of the four sites King Salmon had sought - Waitata and Port Gore - on the grounds they failed to protect outstanding natural landscapes.

"We note that the judge did concede that the issues we raised were important and said of both sets of appeals: 'they have, both competently and responsibly, advanced legitimate public interests," says Gary Taylor, EDS chairman.

The decision could yet be appealed to the Supreme Court, he says.

"Doing that is a big step and raises important issues for us relating to affordability that we'll need to consider. "But we are not into futile gestures and will not be taking the matter further unless there is a good chance of success.

"My own personal view, after reading the decision, is that the judge has got at least part of his decision wrong" for failing to recognise the outstanding natural landscape features of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement.