Pond developer vents his frustration

By Mark Price

Graham Lee is preparing land along Cameron Creek, Wanaka, for a new $4million facility where the public can fish for salmon. Photo / Mark Price / Otago Daily Times.
Graham Lee is preparing land along Cameron Creek, Wanaka, for a new $4million facility where the public can fish for salmon. Photo / Mark Price / Otago Daily Times.

The Wanaka developer of a new salmon "fish-out'' facility has complained to Conservation Minister Maggie Barry that Fish and Game New Zealand has opposed the project in order to protect its own commercial interests.

Graham and Hayley Lee, as Inderlee Ltd, were granted resource consent in November for their operation along Cameron Creek, on the eastern outskirts of Wanaka near Albert Town.

They plan to offer the public the chance to catch chinook salmon from large ponds from November next year.

Their consent application was opposed by Fish and Game, and Mr Lee told the Otago Daily Times this week he has complained by email to Ms Barry about the organisation's motives.

"Although smokescreens have been put up, the true reasoning for Fish and Game's objections to the Inderlee development is to restrict competition for the recreational dollar,'' Mr Lee said in his email.

"The Resource Management Act clearly states trade competitors have no place in the resource consent process.''

In addition to obtaining resource consent from the Queenstown Lakes District Council and the Otago Regional Council, the company also requires a fish farm licence.

Mr Lee said Fish and Game was opposing the licence application, causing "further costly delays''.

"These obstructive actions by Fish and Game are an obvious abuse of [the] statutory manager's powers and a misuse of public funds.

"Fish and Game are utilising public funds without accountability to stymie developments that are of benefit to the very same public supplying their funds.''

Mr Lee said he was complaining to Ms Barry because Fish and Game was given the title of "statutory managers of game fish'' under the Conservation Act.

"We believe to create a level playing field and remove this rort of the system, Fish and Game must be removed of the ... title.''

Otago Fish and Game chief executive Niall Watson yesterday denied there was any "trade competition element'' in the organisation's position on Mr Lee's fish-out proposal.

"In fact, a fish-out pond could have a beneficial effect on licence sales by introducing members of the public to angling as a recreational pursuit.''

Mr Watson said his organisation's main concern was with the effect of the development on water quality.

"Fish and Game still considers that downstream water quality is the key issue and that Mr Lee's proposed fish-out pond stocking rates and maintenance feeding regime will degrade water quality.

"That view has been supported by assessments by independent consultants commissioned by Fish and Game ... but he [Mr Lee] doesn't accept there is an issue even though it could affect the viability of the proposal.

"In my view, he would be well advised to seek a second opinion on the water quality implications of his proposed operation rather than berating Fish and Game or complaining to ministers of the Crown.''

Fish farming licences are issued by the Ministry for Primary Industries and Mr Watson said while Fish and Game had raised its concerns over water quality with the ministry, it had "not been formally consulted'' about the licence application.

- Otago Daily Times

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