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Published: 2013-04-17 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council is criticising misleading factual errors in a recent column by Geoffrey and Reihana Robinson on fish farming plans in the Waikato.

“The Robinsons’ inventive interpretation of our work in the fish farming area may unfortunately have misled readers by its gross factual inaccuracies,” said policy group manager Vaughan Payne.

Mr Payne said that contrary to the article’s claims the council was not commencing a “new” round of promotion after a “failed effort” to attract tenders for the fish farming space off the Coromandel Peninsula.

“To date WRC has carried out no promotion and has not yet called for tenders. No date has yet been set for the tender or the pre-tender promotion. We expect the promotion phase will begin about July with the call for tenders about three months after that.”

There is also no “murky plan B” if the tendering process is unsuccessful.

What has happened is that partners the council is working with – including Thames-Coromandel District Council – have requested a contingency plan if the tendering isn’t a success.

One option in that contingency plan is for the council to itself get consent for aquaculture in the Firth of Thames and then sell or lease space. This option is also being pursued in Northland, and it is a process used for other council activities such as gravel extraction from rivers. Any potential “conflicts of interest” between a council’s role in being a consent holder and a regulator are managed appropriately in such cases, said Mr Payne.

He also rejected any suggestion the council was somehow being “servile” or making “big concessions” to the aquaculture industry with its fish farming plans.

“The Waikato mussel farming industry is subject to the strictest conditions in the country, and fish farming will be subject to even stronger controls. Council supports environmentally sustainable growth and will not permit any significant degradation of the marine environment.”

Mr Payne stressed that the council was not treating the idea of fish farming lightly: “If managed poorly it has the potential for significant adverse effects on the environment.

“However, the fish farming industry had greatly improved its performance and our consent conditions will require the latest best practice in fish farming.”