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Published: 2016-05-27 00:00:00

Waikato regional councillors have confirmed the go ahead for a tender round for the use of fish farming space in the Coromandel Marine Farming Zone off the north-west Coromandel coast.

They yesterday endorsed putting the space out for tender following a recommendation from the strategy and policy committee.

Committee chairman Bob Simcock, however, got support for a new motion yesterday related to any resource consent applications that are eventually lodged as a result of the tender.

The motion said the council acknowledged the independence of the resource consent process but added “the high degree of public interest in this topic needs to be carefully considered when a decision about public notification of the consent application is being made”.

Cr Simcock said earlier this month that Waikato is already a major marine farming region, second only to the Marlborough Sounds in terms of production and employment. “While it is essential that environmental risks are adequately managed and mitigated through a comprehensive resource consent process, fish farming offers potential for further benefits,” he said then.

It’s now expected that a tender to farm fish within the specially designated 300 hectare zone will happen later this year.

The decision to go to the tender stage comes after council staff were advised of renewed interest in farming fish, with the single undisclosed party involved looking at occupying space in the outer Firth of Thames.

Space available in the Coromandel Marine Farming Zone would be due to be released for development after the tender process. That process would take into account key factors of a bid such as environmental management practices, economic benefit, and any monetary contribution to council and central Government.

Successful tenderers would need to apply to the council for a resource consent. Any application for a resource consent to farm fish would have to be accompanied by a comprehensive site specific assessment of potential environmental effects.

A report to the committee has previously noted that the environmental impacts of fish farming could be greater than for shellfish farming and that poorly managed farms overseas have had “significant” impacts. “Modern fish farm management addresses these concerns but it should be recognised that a marine farm will always have some degree of residual impact on the environment. The resource consent process will determine whether that impact is sustainable.”