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Published: 2011-09-14 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council is well placed to play its part in the growth of aquaculture in Coromandel when new laws take effect on 1 October, says policy group manager Vaughan Payne.

A new 300 hectare aquaculture zone about 13 kilometres west of Coromandel town comes into existence then following the recent passage of the Aquaculture Amendment Acts.

“This new zone offers exciting new economic prospects for our region. We’re keen to ensure opportunities can be exploited in an environmentally sensitive way,” said Mr Payne.

Kingfish is expected to be the first fish grown on a commercial scale in the zone. Hapuku is likely to be next. Research is ongoing on other species.

Currently there is about 1500 hectares allocated to shellfish farming in the Coromandel area. This includes 1210 hectares in the Wilson Bay zone in the Firth of Thames, about 230 hectares of small mussel farms scattered around the Coromandel coastline, and 70 hectares of inter-tidal oyster farms.

From 1 October, the new, 300 ha Coromandel marine farming zone will be available to accommodate about 8000 tonnes of fish farming.

At the same time, 90 hectares of vacant space in the Wilson Bay zone can be used for about 4000 tonnes fish farming and older mussel farms outside the Wilson Bay zone can apply for small extensions of about 1 hectare or 10 per cent, every 5 years. Applications for new inter-tidal oyster farms will also be possible.

Ministry of Fisheries predictions for fish farming suggest 8000 tonnes of kingfish farming would generate export revenues of over $100 million, and hapuku would be worth twice that.

The council is working to ensure that the regional coastal plan will give effect to this new legislation.

“Once the 20 per cent allocation to the Maori Trustee is complete (as required by the Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act), the regional council will be able to call for tender bids for the new 300 ha of space and the 90 ha in the Wilson Bay zone,” said Mr Payne. “We expect we will be able to do this next year.”

The legislation has established criteria to be used to weigh up tender bids, including whether a proposal would contribute to social and economic wellbeing and the applicant’s proposed environmental management practices.

“Monitoring conditions imposed as part of resource consents will aim to manage any potential environmental impacts such as preventing unacceptable levels of the organic enrichment that can occur under fish farms,” said Mr Payne.

“The new zone’s location was selected because it is in well-flushed, deeper water, away from recognised navigation routes and out of sight of land from sea-level.”