Opponents of a proposed kingfish farm in Whangaroa say it risks polluting Northland's most spectacular deep-water harbour.
Whaingaroa Fisheries Company, which is owned by Te Runanga o Whaingaroa, is proposing 5ha of sea cages for raising kingfish and a 19ha oyster farm next to Ohauroro/Peach Island, just inside the Whangaroa Harbour entrance.
Public submissions on the plan closed on Friday and will now be considered by the Northland Regional Council.
Totara North man David Keys, spokesman for the Whangaroa Maritime Recreation Area Steering Group, said the proposed fish farm's location in a tidal area near the harbour mouth posed a high risk of pollution.
"Whatever comes out of the fish farm will either go up the harbour, or get washed out the harbour and down the coast," Mr Keys said.
That included waste produced by a large number of fish in a confined area and uneaten food.
Mr Keys said the company's response, when asked how it would manage waste, was that once the immediate area was polluted the cage would be moved to allow the tides to wash the build-up into the harbour. He was sceptical about claims for the number of jobs the project would create.
Labour list MP and former Maori fisheries boss Shane Jones backed the plans, saying something had to replace 66 jobs lost when Sanford closed its Kaeo oyster plant.
However, Mr Keys believed the fish farm would lead to only five permanent jobs, four of which would go to outside experts.
Given the virus currently affecting the oyster industry in Northland, he doubted the oyster farm would create new jobs.
It made no sense to risk spoiling one of Northland's most spectacular harbours when tourism was the region's biggest earner after pastoral farming, well ahead of aquaculture in both jobs and income.
Tourism employed roughly 7000 Northlanders and made $590 million a year, compared to aquaculture's $19 million and 330 jobs, he said.
Yachting New Zealand has also submitted against the proposal, saying it would take up almost half of Owanga Bay and block safe access to some of the harbour's best anchorages.
It would be hard to get past the farm in high winds as boats would have to be virtually on the rocks to get through the narrow passage, and if the wind shifted at night changing anchorage would be "a nightmare".