Oyster plan worries yachties

Dropping caged oysters into the middle of the lower Otago Harbour is akin to planting tulips in the centre of Logan Park, Yachting New Zealand says.

Commenting on a proposal announced this week by Southern Clams and New Zealand Bluff Oyster Company, to finish off Bluff oysters in the lower harbour so they could be sold live, in the shell, Yachting New Zealand regional support officer Otago Graeme Wall said the proposed deep-water resting area, AAA2, was in the middle of the best yacht-racing area in the harbour.

''It's in the middle of Dunedin city's aquatic playing field. It is prime real estate for the recreational sailor.''

Acknowledging the project was in its early days and he was still to see the full proposal, Mr Wall, a life member of Port Chalmers Yacht Club, said it would be a concern if the two proposed areas AAA1 and AAA2, but especially AAA2, were to be used for the venture.

AAA2 would ''essentially impact on the viability of setting yacht race courses'' in the Portobello Bay area, an area that was used during summer and winter for racing.

''These areas are used by yachties from around the harbour, not just locally from Port Chalmers.''

Last January, it was used for the Sunburst national championships hosted and run by the Port Chalmers Yacht Club.

While Yachting New Zealand and the Port Chalmers club were not against commercial activity in the harbour, the yachting community was a strong advocate for the maintenance of free, safe, navigable open waters for all to enjoy, Mr Wall said.

''Any restrictions upon our already limited open sailing waters within the harbour would have deleterious implications for yachting on the Otago Harbour.''

Otago Harbour was a great recreational asset to the city and the value of this for the lifestyle

Dunedin could offer should not be lost, Mr Wall said.

Southern Clams managing director Roger Belton said it was a reasonable concern for the yachties to have as there was not enough deep water in the harbour.

He admitted the company was making a ''fairly big ask'' in wanting to put the oysters at AAA2.

''We definitely need to have a serious conversation about this.''

Mr Belton plans six months of consultation with harbour users.

-rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz

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