Direct seabed fouling and complete dead zones from uneaten food and faeces are guaranteed, the report stated. Then there is chemical pollution from anti-foulants, disinfectants, cleaning agents, anti-parasitics and antibiotics; disease transmission to wild stock; gene transfer from bred escapees to wild fish; spread of invasive pests to the coastline; entanglement and death of marine mammals … –Activist Geoffrey Robinson on the case against fish farming

By Roger Childs

Iwi scheme to make money from fish farming

The narrow Hauraki Gulf is already heavily fished and has a million people on its shores and islands. My brother-in-law reports that a recent New Zealand Herald article noted that the flesh of snapper caught in the Gulf has “a watery mushinesss” and is best avoided. 

Waiheke Island in the northern part of the Gulf has a population of 9370 (June 2022) but does not have a sewerage system. My brother in law, a resident of the Island, says that over 5000 visitors come over every day at this time of the year and needless to say create more sewage. Where does it all go?

Now Pare Hauraki Kaimoana, a company linked to the Hauraki Maori Trust, wants to establish a fish farming operation 11km from Waiheke Island and 13.5 km from Coromandel Town. The company argues that the project would provide dozens of jobs and earn $100 million a year. It has lodged a resource consent application to the Waikato Regional Council for a fish farm in a 300 hectare Marine Farming Zone.

The project is intended to grow, harvest and export kingfish, mussels, sea cucumbers, sponges, kelp and seaweeds.

Kingfish.

A divisive issue

Not surprisingly there are supporters and opponents. Lining up with Pare Hauraki Kaimoana are aquiculture and Maori interests, the Hauraki Gulf Forum and the Hauraki District Council. 

Opposition to the project is led by environmentalists and yachties as well as Forest and Bird, “Protect our Gulf” and Whitianga Conservation.  “Twitter and Twig” argue that the fish farm would “underscore attempts to restore the already degraded marine environment…” of the Gulf. Shirin Brown from Protect our Gulf says: “This will have the consequence that profits will be privatised and losses will be socialised so that communities bear the brunt of the loss of their recreational space, water quality and ability to fish.

Submissions on the fish farm proposal ended early in 2022 and over half were against it. DoC’s submission said: “The Hauraki Gulf is a biodiversity hotspot. It can accommodate growth in the acquaculture industry as long as that is done in an environmentally sensitive and sustainable way.”

Hauraki Gulf coast.

Bureaucratic hurdles

Pare Hauraki want a change to the Waikato Regional Council’s coastal plan which, needless to say, is opposed by many. The Ministry of Primary Industries and Department of Conservation have criticised the lack of detail on the farm’s potential environmental impacts and the absence of a management plan to mitigate the effects on sea birds and marine mammals. In mid-2021 the Waikato Regional Council wanted more information, however the local iwi response has not been made public.

The Maori project is strong on claimed benefits but light on environmental impact. As Shirin Brown observes:  “It would be equivalent to opening a Pandora’s Box to environmental degradation which will be difficult to manage in the future”.

(My thanks to Reihana and Geoffrey Robinson, Reg Towers and Paul Mitchell of Gulf News for the resources to write this article.)