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Published: 2001-12-04 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is to work with Auckland Regional Council to develop a joint strategy to manage marine farming in their areas.

This week the Government placed a two year moratorium on the granting of resource consent for new acquaculture developments, to allow time for new legislation to be drafted and more resource management planning to take place. The lack of clear law and effective processes had produced an overload of marine farm applications, causing higher process costs and poor environmental results, it said.

The Committee was told marine farming continued to be a major issue for Environment Waikato to manage in the coastal marine area. In 1999, after intense pressure for marine farm development in the Firth of Thames, Environment Waikato proposed a variation to the Regional Coastal Plan which set up a robust policy framework for managing the environmental effects of marine farming.

Policy Programme Manager Blair Dickie said the framework allowed conventional long line farming in Wilsons Bay, but outside the zone on the western side of the Coromandel Peninsula and in the Firth of Thames it was non-complying.

The Wilsons Bay zone was now almost fully allocated. Environment Waikato had recently received applications for substantial areas of farming around Great Mercury Island and along the coast of the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula, as well as some interest in Aotea and Kawhia Harbours on the west coast, he said.

Environment Waikato had received an application for structures to occupy a total of 1000 hectares for spat catching, which was not defined as marine farming. The application attracted over 220 opposing submissions and there was strong local opposition.

The Auckland Regional Council was seeking a declaration from the Environment Court on the definition and had also received further applications which Environment Waikato had opposed.

The Hauraki Gulf Forum had requested that the two Councils consider a joint plan for the Hauraki Gulf, which would enable a more comprehensive study to determine what was reasonable space for marine farming, he said.

This more integrated approach would provide for better environmental, economic and social outcomes for the Hauraki Marine Park. The moratorium would allow both Regional Councils to get a robust policy framework in place before considering further marine farm development.