Marlborough residents protest proposed salmon farms

A flotilla of concerned Marlborough residents has protested on Saturday against plans to relocate a number of salmon farms in the Sounds.

The group wants the Government to drop a proposal to move the farms, but salmon farmers say they have the public's backing to go ahead with it.

Environmental groups want the creep of salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds to stop.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is proposing moving six farms owned by New Zealand King Salmon from areas where there is a low flow of water, to high-flow sites in the Pelorus Sound and Tory Channel.

The Nelson-based company argues the new sites will be more efficient and better for the environment.

"We want to achieve world's best practice for salmon farming. That can really only be achieved on high-flow sites, and that's what this whole proposal is about," says New Zealand King Salmon CEO Grant Rosewarne.

MPI has been criticised by some locals for using a section of the Resource Management Act to bypass the usual resource consent process. But New Zealand King Salmon says 69 percent of submissions have been in favour of the move.

"I think it enjoys overwhelming public support, primarily because it's based on an improved environmental outcome," Mr Rosewarne says.

He says many anti-salmon farm activists are being disingenuous when they cite environmental factors. But Clare Pinder, from activist group Guardians of the Sounds, denies they're only acting out of self-interest.

"The Guardians of Sounds is not against salmon farming per se, but it needs to be done sustainably and there is the technology to do it on land," she says.

Minister Nathan Guy will have the final say on the proposal, once public hearings wrap up next month.