Guardians highlight possible risks to marine area

Possible risks stemming from a regional council plan review period are concerning a group dedicated to safeguarding Fiordland’s marine areas.

Environment Southland is updating its regional coastal plan for Southland.

During a presentation to the council last week, Fiordland Marine Guardian Ali Ballantine said an influx of domestic tourists, as well as an increase in consent applications and requests for variations on them, concerned the group given the transition between the plans.

"I think there is a bit of a gold rush going on."

The guardians believed that under the current plan, there was limited scope to oppose any expansion or manage accumulative effects of the surface water activity consents.

The only thing they could rely on was the New Zealand coastal policy statement, she said.

This states adverse effects on outstanding natural character are to be avoided. She said it allowed the council to take a cautionary approach in the interim.

"We’re not asking for people to stop doing things over there, but at the moment with not being able to deal with accumulative effects, we feel by the time the new plan comes into place the horse may well have bolted."

In the presentation to councillors, she said the guardians would like to see accelerated progress on the new plan, as well as an independent environmental monitoring report on perceptions of natural character in the Fiordland Marine Area.

"I know the pressure council is under, but the sooner we can get the system in place, the better."

She also approved of a shorter consent duration time of about 12 years.

Cr Lloyd McCallum suggested they set up a workshop to go over what had been raised.

Council chairman Nicol Horrell called Fiordland the jewel in the crown, and said it was good the guardians were highlighting some of the issues the area faced.

The plan was being revised in three stages, and stage two began in June 2019.

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