There's a Monty Python skit where a cricketer recounts repeatedly bowling deliveries that are returned at great speed and smack him repeatedly in the forehead.
After the fifth or sixth time, he says: "Of course, I was getting used to it by then."
It feels an apt analogy for anyone seeking to do anything experimental and large-scale in the ocean around New Zealand.
Trans Tasman Resources, a would-be seabed ironsands mining company, has spent much of the past decade getting nowhere in its bid to be allowed to suck titano-magnetite sands from the seafloor off the coast near Patea.
Chatham Rock Phosphate, which seeks to mine phosphate mined from the seafloor on the Chatham Rise to replace fertiliser controversially imported from the disputed African territory of the Western Sahara, has been equally unsuccessful.
In both cases, perhaps the greatest barrier to permission – apart from determined environmental activists and fishing industry lobbyists – has been the sheer lack of information about the ocean environment in which they seek to operate.
No matter that the fishing industry can destroy marine habitat indiscriminately with widespread bottom-trawling. That's been permitted for years and, because it's not new, is allowed to continue.
But when it comes to large-scale, new industrial activity in lightly studied parts of the marine environment, the Environmental Protection Authority has shown a consistent preference for a "precautionary" rather than "adaptive" approach.
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The promoters of both undersea mining operations spent serious money on scientific research in environments where very little study had ever previously occurred.
They expected this addition to public knowledge would ease their path to an adaptive management approach to their plans. In other words, they'd be allowed to try things and, if they didn't meet agreed environmental bottom lines, they'd be allowed to experiment to meet such conditions.
There was always a risk they'd fail to find an environmentally acceptable way forward, but it was a risk they were willing to take, as long as they had wriggle room to try.
Instead, they found themselves hoist on their own petard. In both cases, the EPA agreed with objectors the science was inadequate and a whole lot more research would be needed before they could be allowed to proceed.
In the meantime, the environmental regulator preferred a precautionary approach, effectively barring the proposed new activities. TTR and CRP continue to pursue their applications with a mixture of appeals and further science.
However, neither will happen quickly or perhaps ever, particularly in the absence of a coherent national oceans policy, which would include a spatial planning approach to what activities might be allowed where in the future.
The latest applicant to risk falling foul of this conundrum may be New Zealand King Salmon, whose endlessly bullish chief executive, Grant Rosewarne, has never been shy to set an ambitious deadline.
Around the middle of last year, he announced the company would lodge a resource consent application for the country's first open ocean aquaculture project, a large salmon-farming operation situated in Cook Strait, between 5km and 12km offshore from Cape Lambert, which sits about halfway between the entrances to Queen Charlotte and Pelorus Sounds.
He took heart from Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash's new aquaculture strategy, announced last September. That called for today's $600 million a year turnover industry to reach $3 billion by 2035. That almost certainly won't happen without some big investments of this kind.
He argues, rightly, that animal protein grown in fish farms has far less environmental impact kilo-for-kilo than traditional pastoral farming.
Moving into deep water would also pave the way for a long-term solution to two of the company's biggest problems: local opposition to its Marlborough Sounds inshore operations and the fact higher summer sea temperatures have been killing more and more of its fish at sites where tidal flows are limited.
Marlborough District Council hearings are set down for late April.
Submissions for those hearings from the Department of Conservation, Environmental Defence Society, and McGuinness Institute – a long-time King Salmon critic – all make claims very similar to those seen in both the TTR and CRP applications.
While the EDS is broadly supportive of open ocean farming, all three argue that too little is known about what the environmental impacts might be and say more science is needed, a precautionary approach is required, and that adaptive management would be inappropriate.
There is obviously a huge difference between a salmon farm and an undersea mining operation. There is nothing to say the King Salmon application will suffer the same fate as the other two examples in this column.
However, the dynamics emerging suggest enough parallels to suggest a protracted process if this major opportunity to expand New Zealand aquaculture is ever to be allowed.
Click here to see map showing proposed salmon farm location
Disclosure: Pattrick Smellie travelled to Norway in 2018 as a guest of King Salmon to observe open ocean farming technology.