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Stick in the mud in Marlborough

Marlborough Recreational Fishers’ Association acting president Peter Watson said proposed new forestry standards would aggravate sedimentation in the mud-clogged Pelorus Sound. Source:

Central Government proposals to allow more forestry in Marlborough would have a devastating impact on the Marlborough Sounds, fishermen say.

The proposed National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry will replace regional and district councils’ management of plantation forestry, creating a nationally consistent approach.

The Government maintains the standards are to cut “unwarranted variation” that forestry companies face across different local authorities. If passed, it would allow more permitted forestry in Marlborough.

It would cut the Marlborough District Council’s control over forestry but the bill for enforcing the standard would still fall on ratepayers.

Fishermen said there was nothing in the plan that addressed sedimentation caused by forestry activities that smothered seabed ecosystems in the Marlborough Sounds.

The Marlborough Recreational Fishers’ Association acting president Peter Watson said a national standard would only aggravate the alarming condition of the mud-clogged Pelorus Sound.

“Siltation has been on-going and recently accelerated, especially in the Pelorus Sound,” Watson said.

Watson believed the farming of mussels and oysters, as well as run-off of forestry sediment in the Pelorus Sound was contributing to poor water quality.

The sea floor was nearly three metres deep with silt and mud so there was no bottom feed for the fish. This was forcing snapper to the east coast or Tasman Bay, Watson said.

Forestry controls should be kept within council with stricter control of conditions around commercial exotic forestry, he said.

“The adverse effects of forestry activities on marine environments in the Marlborough Sounds are a salutary lesson in how bad outcomes emanate from permissive planning,” he said.

A report by marine scientist Rob Davidson said forestry activities were causing sedimentation that ran into the Marlborough Sounds and killed seabed ecosystems.

An analysis of significant sites in the Sounds found an area the size of Blenheim had been lost in four years because of sedimentation, trawling and dredging.

Mr Watson said the scientific evidence should stop the government proposal in its tracks. Tennyson Inlet Boating Club said in its submission the standard’s greater permissiveness and “fuzzy controls” on the damaging activities of forestry would reflect badly on freshwater and marine water quality.

The Ministry for Primary Industries proposed forestry activities could be permitted without a resource consent, except on land that had a very high erosion risk.

Under the standard, areas of erosion risk around Marlborough had been downgraded from very high to high, allowing more permitted forestry blocks to open up.

The boating club said they had no faith in the erosion risk classification tool.

There needed to be an additional section in the document on the effects of forestry-induced sedimentation on marine environments, especially in confined waters such as the Marlborough Sounds, the club said.

Local authorities in Marlborough had not been able to prevent the adverse effects of sedimentation, the club said.