Mus­sel farmer or­dered out of Port Gore

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

Marl­bor­ough Sounds-based Clear­wa­ter Mussels has been de­clined re­source con­sent for two ex­ist­ing mus­sel farms and must de­com­mis­sion them – largely be­cause of the risk to the threat­ened king shag.

The com­pany has two farms close to­gether at Pig Bay and Port Gore/te Anama­hanga in the Outer Marl­bor­ough Sounds which cover about six hectares com­bined.

Owner John Young said he was dis­cussing an ap­peal with lawyers – ‘‘there’s hardly any­where in the Sounds that doesn’t have king shags, they fly for good­ness sake’’.

The En­vi­ron­ment Court de­ci­sion said the $1.5 mil­lion rev­enue from the farms was a rel­a­tively small per­cent­age of the com­pany’s ex­port rev­enue of $208m.

The En­vi­ron­ment Court rul­ing on the Clear­wa­ter case also took into ac­count ev­i­dence about the un­suit­abil­ity of the farm’s lo­ca­tion for nat­u­ral char­ac­ter, nav­i­ga­tion and land­scape con­cerns

Young said los­ing the $1.5m ex­port value of the crop from the site was not his main con­cern – it was los­ing a good site from where he ob­tained spat for his other op­er­a­tions.

There were rel­a­tively few good spat ar­eas. Some had be­come less pro­duc­tive for un­known rea­sons pos­si­bly re­lated to cli­mate change, Young said.

Young ac­knowl­edged the king shag was threat­ened but also pointed out that ex­perts gave ev­i­dence the pop­u­la­tion had sta­bilised at low lev­els in re­cent years.

‘‘Mus­sel farm­ing doesn’t leave a foot­print like some other ac­tiv­i­ties, it’s pretty benev­o­lent and you can move them.

‘‘We have a pretty se­ri­ous is­sue if this is the way things are go­ing to go in the Marl­bor­ough Sounds. It’s a na­tion­wide is­sue for New Zealand as a pri­mary pro­ducer

‘‘If you look at the court rul­ing you’d have to say all forms of recre­ational boat­ing would have to be ex­cluded be­cause some­one’s be­lief or truth has over­rid­den sci­ence in this case,’’ Young said.

The court dis­counted the com­pany’s pro­posal for a preda­tor and pest pro­gramme against land-based pests such as wasps, pos­sums, red deer and cats, say­ing they could not be re­lied on ‘‘to de­liver any off­set­ting or other rel­e­vant eco­log­i­cal ben­e­fits’’.

‘‘The pro­pos­als would give rise to an ad­verse po­ten­tial ef­fect to king shag and, hence, to eco­log­i­cal and bio­di­ver­sity val­ues. The ef­fect is one of dis­tur­bance from hu­man ac­tiv­ity as­so­ci­ated with the main­te­nance and op­er­a­tion of the farms. While there may be a rel­a­tively small risk of such an ef­fect, it is not an in­signif­i­cant one,’’ the court ruled.

The king shag (Leu­co­carbo carun­ca­la­tus) was one of three species of shags recog­nised as en­demic to New Zealand, and a threat­ened species un­der the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion and Na­ture and New Zealand threat clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tems and is re­stricted to breed­ing in the Marl­bor­ough Sounds.

The clas­si­fi­ca­tion is based on re­stricted range and a pop­u­la­tion of 250-1000 ma­ture in­di­vid­u­als. The pop­u­la­tion num­bers are gen­er­ally backed by re­cent counts sug­gest­ing there were 839 birds.

There was a breed­ing pres­ence at Port Gore while near­est of the main colonies to the Port Gore sites was Sen­tinel Rock about 15km away, while the White Rocks and Duf­fers Creek colonies were about 20km and 25km away re­spec­tively.

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