Marlborough Sounds Wildlife Reserve oppose aquaculture plansThe Plaisier family of the Tui Nature Reserve in the Outer Pelorus Sounds are calling on the decision makers to reconsider fast tracking new resource consent applications for more aquaculture farms in the Marlborough Sounds.
Having spent 17 years establishing a successful and award-winning conservation reserve with many national and international visitors, volunteers and students, the Plaisiers are appalled at the Government's move to reform the Resource Management Act and change aquaculture legislation to open the door to potential widespread commercial fish farming in the Marlborough Sounds.
This is the first time the family have spoken out against plans of any kind for the Marlborough Sounds. However after working in partnership with the community, iwi, Department of Conservation, Council and many other parties for nearly two decades to ensure the natural future of the Marlborough Sounds and at the same time inspire future generation to do the same, they feel strongly enough to speak out.
Like many other operators, the Tui Nature Reserve depends on tourism to generate eco–dollars, an income that would be under threat if it was to be surrounded by commercial farming.
National and international visitors staying at the reserve will have their views interrupted by aquaculture farms, along with related activities like as many boat activities, noise, lights, visual effects, large numbers of seagulls, and the effects on the water quality, says Brian Plaisier.
Those effects are just the start, he says, as more applications for commercial fish farming in the Marlborough Sounds will be made if the current proposals are granted. This will be irreversible, so now is the time to decide the future of the Sounds, Brian says. "We challenge those who make decisions for the Sounds from behind their desks in New Zealand and overseas to come out here and see what impact those decisions have in the Sounds." says Brian.
The new plans would involve considerable use of natural resources in areas identified as of high significance, says Brian. These areas were put in place in respect of the community's wishes to preserve those areas for the next generations to come. By maintaining the existing plans and policies those wishes are honoured.
There is still a lack of knowledge about how the Marlborough Sounds ecosystem functions and more research is needed to help to preserve this environment for the future, says Brian. "Sustainable management of the water and the land around it is also very beneficial for the aquaculture industry and is a long term plan."
"The current production level by New Zealand King Salmon made them a suitable sponsor for the Tui Nature Reserve and other projects in the Sounds designed to protect the quality of this environment."
"However if new farms are permitted we feel that the farms' footprint will be too overwhelming and we are questioning the capacity of the Sounds to absorb more aquaculture," Brian says.
The Plaisiers foresees a rush on water space with no regards for the sustainable management and balance of the ecosystem. The environmental effects of farms will worsen as they grow in numbers, as has been proven overseas and in other local industries such as forestry which has caused an out-of-control wilding pine problem. "We also fear that people, groups and countless volunteers currently working towards preserving, restoring and protecting the Sounds may no longer be inspired and disappear as commercial activity damages the area's beauty and pristine image," says Brian.
"The Government is supporting the aquaculture reform, unlocking economic potential in Marlborough, but now we feel this is tipping the environmental balance. "There should be a long-term plan in place with not only profitable intentions but also an investment in the future of our Sounds."
He adds that the Marlborough Sounds is a draw card for visitors to the region, who will be put off by seeing rising commercial activities in our "clean and clear" waters.
"We have doubts about the economic benefits for our community in the long term. The tourist industry generates the biggest income in Marlborough and is providing many direct and indirect jobs. At the same time as it is opening up protected areas for commercial use, the Government has cut funds to those protecting the environment yet continues to promote New Zealand's 'clean, green' image to the world to secure the country's top earner, the tourist dollar."
"This is not sustainable. Our 'clean, green image' has already been questioned by overseas media and maintaining this image we need a well managed environment."
The Plaisiers' view on the issue is shared by many in the community who have visited the Tui Nature Reserve, says Brian. Without their support this project was and is not able to continue as we see this and other sanctuaries as part of the Marlborough Sounds vision for the future.
We are hoping that common sense will be the key to a sustainable future.
Tui Nature Reserve Wildlife Park
Brian, Ellen , Leona, Liam and Esmae