Scuppered plans to farm salmon off Rakiura National Park is a predictable outcome of an ill-conceived raid on a pristine environment and on taxpayer money.
Forest & Bird says the remote, wild environment of Port Pegasus bounded by Stewart Island/Rakiura National Park was never a feasible location for a salmon farm, and plans to farm there could only have succeeded based on major government intervention and hand-outs.
The initial project was given Government funding, and the area was the subject of an investigation into ‘Special Economic Zones’ that would over-ride normal environmental protections.
Forest & Bird’s Southland Conservation Manager Sue Maturin says “Forest & Bird is delighted that Port Pegasus is safe from the environmentally damaging effects of intensive salmon farming.
“However, we are still very concerned over the previous Government’s support for overriding environmental rules to provide for aquaculture, and hope that this Government will reconsider those priorities.
“These projects will never meet environmental standards under the RMA, which is why Environment Southland asked the previous government for major intervention in the form of a Special Economic Zone which would override those protections.”
Official documents released earlier this year to Forest & Bird, showed that the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment looked at case studies for Special Economic Zones, including aquaculture in Southland, particularly salmon farms in Stewart Island.
However, MBIE noted in the documents that Port Pegasus contained “some of the largest areas of near pristine marine habitat in the country with significant natural heritage values".
The advice showed salmon farming would be inappropriate in the area under the Resource Management Act (RMA), but the documents say a special economic zone with significant powers could be used to "override RMA issues".
At the time, Forest & Bird’s CEO Kevin Hague said “The Government is picking winners rather than letting development projects be assessed on their merits and risks.”
Sue Maturin says “Forest & Bird is keeping a close watch on other proposals for aquaculture in sensitive marine environments, and we encourage the new Government to show greater economic wisdom and environmental responsibility than the last did on this issue.”