Stuff - Kingfish farm a step closer after iwi gets nod to apply for consent in Hauraki Gulf

Written by Gerald Piddock

The North Island's first offshore fish farm took a step closer after Coromandel iwi received permission to apply for resource consents to farm kingfish in the Hauraki Gulf.

Waikato Regional Council granted Pare Hauraki Kaimoana authorisation to apply for the consents to occupy 240 hectares of fish-farming space in the Firth of Thames following a tender process.

The space in the Coromandel Marine Farming Zone is about 10 kilometres offshore from Coromandel Town.

The authorisation means the company has two years to prepare and submit an application for the necessary resource consents.

Thames-Coromandel constituency Councillor Dal Minogue said the existing aquaculture industry in the district generated just under $100 million of revenue a year and employed more than 550 people. This made it second only to the Marlborough Sounds in terms of production and employment.

"It's exciting to think that, over time, successful fish farming in the Coromandel Marine Farming Zone could generate additional revenue of more than $50 million and dozens of full time jobs through expansion and diversification of the regional aquaculture industry."

As the successful tender, Pare Hauraki Kaimoana has two years to apply to the council for a resource consent to ensure environmental factors are appropriately managed.

Pare Hauraki Kaimoana chairman Harry Mikaere said fish farming is a huge opportunity for the iwi and it would likely lodge the consent by the end of this year or early next year.

"It's an enormous undertaking, especially moving away from the cottage-type industry that we have had for the past 35 years in terms of mussel farming.

"We have become more industrialised in our approach, so it therefore requires a higher level of science and understanding the husbandry between management of these particular creatures that we're going to be looking at."

Mikaere said the fish would likely be exported to the high-value markets of Asia, including China and Japan.

He said there was an enormous task ahead before the farm's infrastructure is put in place, which included extensive consultation.

"We have to get it right around the science around the species we want to grow."

Council chief executive Vaughan Payne said there had been strong interest in farming kingfish and hāpuku in the region for several years. 

The Coromandel Marine Farming Zone was subsequently established in 2011, but interest in fish-farming waned in the wake of the global financial crisis.

There was renewed interest in mid-2016 from the aquaculture market in taking up space in the zone, resulting in the call for tenders last year.

"The approval process to issue the authorisation has been lengthy, in part because of the process specified in the Resource Management Act and also complexities in determining a commercial arrangement for a market that doesn't yet exist in New Zealand," Payne said.