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ECan previously gave vessel operators until October 31, 2021, to undertake independent scientific studies to demonstrate they can comply with a set of rules, otherwise they would not be permitted to anchor.
This included proving they were not causing adverse environmental effects, showing they have applied for consent to anchor and that the disturbance of the seabed would only be up to a volume of 5m3.
However, since giving notice of this requirement, the Covid-19 pandemic has created many uncertainties, with the ability to gather scientific data being limited during lockdown or when no ships are visiting.
To mitigate the lack of available data, ECan has provided further guidance on permitted activity including the size of vessels, and the associated number of visits that may be made within any 12-month period, without breaching rules regarding seabed disturbance.
This guidance has been issued to help provide clarity to the community, vessel operators and businesses during the current period of uncertainty.
"If we are provided with scientific data to the contrary, we will review our guidance and make any necessary changes.
"What this guidance aims to do is provide certainty about which cruise ships may visit Akaroa Harbour from November 1, 2021 - without it, that was likely to be none due to the lack of available data.”
The potential disturbance of the seabed by anchors and a reduction in water quality at Akaroa has been an ongoing matter of public discussion and community concern.
ECan has worked with rūnanga, community groups and the cruise industry to identify measures that will address these issues.
In October 2019 an independently commissioned Ecological Risk Assessment on the impact of cruise ships operating in Akaroa Harbour was released.
Dilley said preliminary findings were that “any potential effects can be appropriately managed”.
However, Mr Dilley also noted that “the available research is not sufficient to provide a definitive answer”, which is why he recommended the further research be conducted.