Landscape beats mussel farms
The outstanding natural landscape of Port Gore in the remote Marlborough Sounds ranked high among the Environment Court's reasons for refusing to renew consents for three mussel farms in the area.
Sanford then lodged two appeals to the Environment Court – one against the decision denying their farm application and the other appealing the decision to renew the other farm for 10 years, asking for 20 years
The court's decision, issued on April 26, declined two appeals by an aquaculture company, Sanford, and granted an appeal by a Port Gore resident and a conservationist group effectively putting an end to the three mussel farms in question.
Cliff Marchant and friends of Nelson Haven and Tasman Bay Incorporated appealed the decision to grant PGMF's farm, and joined the Sanford appeals as interested parties
The court's decision will come into effect in 18 months to allow the owners to harvest existing stock, but no new lines may be sown.
The decision says while the "natural character of the coastal environment of eastern Port Gore" was "high", the landscape was an "outstanding natural landscape" and must be recognised and protected.
Although the economic and social benefits of a proposal must be considered, the evidence on these issues had been "skimpy" during the hearing, he said.
Any of the farms would also have an adverse effect on the recreational users of the sea by reducing the remoteness and natural character of eastern Port Gore, the decision says.
Judge Jon Jackson said he was impressed with Sanford's proposal to run sub-surface farms to minimise the visual impact, but even so "the active effects of harvesting" would have a bigger adverse effect than the surface or visual effect for those who live nearby.
Lights from submerged farms would also be visible at night, he said.
Judge Jackson dismissed concerns that jobs may be lost if the consents were not granted by saying the mussel farms could be relocated elsewhere in Marlborough coastal waters.
He says Sanford's concerns about delays in approvals of farms had been addressed by the 2011 Aquaculture Act.
The council granted Port Gore marine farms (PGMF) permission in 2008 for one farm for eight years
No satisfactory cost-benefit analysis was placed before the court to enable it to make an assessment of which option for each of the water spaces (mussel farm or empty water space) provides a greater social, economic or cultural benefit, he said.
The loss to the consent holders' existing investment in the mussel farms could be addressed by allowing them time to harvest the crop, Judge Jackson said. Equipment used on the farms could be used at a new site, he said.
The Marlborough District Council renewed Sanford's consent in 2007 for one farm for a period of 10 years, and declined another application for renewal of consent for the other farm in 2009