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Published: 2010-05-06 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is supporting government moves to develop marine farming while still protecting the environment and interests of other users of coastal areas.

The Government has recently announced it is looking at a range of amendments aimed at boosting the aquaculture sector’s potential to generate sustainable economic growth for New Zealand.

Chairman Peter Buckley said the regional council supported a strategic approach to the sustainable growth of aquaculture.

"Marine farming could create up to 600 new jobs and inject $200 to $300 million into the Waikato economy over the next 20 years," he said.

"We’re keen to promote economic growth but there are also environmental concerns that we must take into account.

"So we’re looking forward to working with the Government, industry and other stakeholders on developing a national aquaculture strategy and plan that supports the goal of reaching $1 billion in sales by 2025 while also safeguarding our environment."

The proposals include a range of measures including removing the requirement for aquaculture to occur only in aquaculture management areas.

Currently 1500 hectares are allocated for aquaculture in the Firth of Thames, an area of significant ecological value. Shellfish is the only type of aquaculture permitted in these areas, but kingfish, for example, could provide returns of more than $400,000 per hectare – more than 10 times higher than shellfish.

While responsibility for the management of aquaculture will remain with regional councils, the reforms include agreement in principle to establish a power for the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture to amend regional coastal plans in exceptional circumstances where it is in significant regional or national interest.

"This is one proposal we will be watching carefully and working closely with Government and industry to balance the economic benefits and the environmental impacts of marine fishing in the regional and national interest."

The Aquaculture Reform Bill is being drafted and is expected to be introduced in mid-2010.