Katikati residents David and Helen Stewart are seeking local support in opposition to a neighbouring fish farm proposal that goes to the Environment Court tomorrow.
Kingfish. Photo: Kate Hutson
Local residents, many of whom objected to the fish farm proposal at earlier hearings, were reminded last week with flyers dropped in letter boxes advising of the court date on Tuesday June 26, and asking them to attend.
The Stewarts don’t want to live next door to one million kingfish that will be kept in tanks and housed within a building ‘the size of Bunnings’ and kept alive by pumps and ventilation fans running 24/7.
They are opposing the Western Bay of Plenty District Council’s approval for the farm, which the Stewarts say breaks the council’s own rules for rural developments, and have been pushed through in spite of solid opposition for the community.
The applicant is NZ Premium Aquaculture Ltd, with Trevor Davidson listed as the sole director.
The farm has obtained a regional council consent to pipe seawater a kilometre across country to discharge it again into the Uretara Estuary.
Helen says the regional council consent over water discharge into Tauranga Harbour was granted on a non-notified basis, preventing community input or objection.
“Given the polluted state of the Uretara estuary the question remains as to what effect this is likely to have on the water quality of the upper harbour,” says Helen.
“The regional council consent appears to impose no formal process on the application to test and submit such test results on a regular basis.”
The fish farm has also been given consent by the Western BOP District Council for a building 7900m2 in area and up to nine metres in height - about 40 times larger than what is permitted under the district plan, says Helen.
In the original application the applicant claimed the business would produce jobs, says Helen. The application now advises the fish will be killed before being transported to another facility for gutting and filleting, and there will only be jobs on site for six people.
Killing animals for commercial purposes on rural properties is prohibited in the Western Bay of Plenty district.
“We went to a hearing, got all sorts of experts in, and they gave him that land consent one and a half times bigger than a football field.”
In submissions at the consent hearing in November 2011, the Stewart’s counsel Kate Barry-Piceno said the application was originally submitted with no planning advice and was deficient when presented, and the council should not have received it.
Aquaculture is not included in the District Plan and the Resource Management Act only refers to aquaculture in the coastal marine environment. The Regional Coastal Environmental Plan is also limited in its definitions. The land-based activity is not covered by the Regional Council.
There should have been a joint hearing with the Regional Council. In Kate’s opinion the regional council water consent process was deficient.
“It’s been a long process, we’ve been to hearings, we’ve been to mediations, and the council changed the rules on us and now we go to court on Tuesday,” says Helen.
They allowed him to have building over 7000m2 at the time the council limit was 200m2.
“A lot of people got upset and sent submission in to argue about this building, and they just changed the rules, said it was ancillary and not to do with the land consent – of course it’s to do with the land consent. It’s really bizarre.
“This has been going on for two years. He originally applied for hatchery and was put in for submissions on December 23, just at Christmas time,’ says Helen. “Fifty seven people objected to it, which is a lot.”
Kingfish, (Seriola Ialandi Ialandi), are also known as; Yellowtail, Gold Striped Amberjack, Lechas, Magiatiko, Chariteiro and Gelbschwanz.
Kingfish are farmed in the Marlborough Sounds, there was a failed venture in Northland, and there are several kingfish farms in South Australia’s Spencer Gulf.