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Government wants to TRIPLE the size of the aquaculture industry - with what impact on our coastline?

The Government will be able to overrule regional councils on new aquaculture applications under rules designed to help triple the size of the industry.

Industry figures welcomed Cabinet recommendations to streamline the consent process for new aquaculture farms, with no new space set aside since 2004.

Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Phil Heatley said the current regulations for aquaculture were cumbersome and that, without change, it was unlikely space for new ventures would be set aside for several years.

"We want to free up regulatory bottlenecks that have kept aquaculture planning in limbo."

The Government has said it supports Aquaculture New Zealand's goal to triple the size of the industry to $1 billion in annual sales by 2025.

New recommendations outlined yesterday would see the Resource Management Act changed to allow the minister of fisheries and aquaculture to overrule decisions by regional councils in the national interest.

But Mr Heatley said this would be done only in exceptional circumstances.

He said the current legislation lacked incentive for regional councils to plan for new development, with the councils forced to incur the cost of setting up designated aquamarine areas.

While businesses could apply for a specific area to be established for farming, there has been no guarantee that the applicant would then be awarded the consent to farm the area ahead of a rival.

Minimum consent durations for aquaculture ventures would be extended from the current five years to 20 years to provide more certainty over investment.

Aquaculture New Zealand chairman Peter Vitasovich welcomed the plans, describing existing legislation as "unworkable". This had meant the industry had experienced "a lost decade".

"The whole thing was a cumbersome piece of legislation that just clearly wasn't going to work."

Mr Vitasovich, who farms mussels in the Coromandel, said a new dedicated aquaculture business unit within the Fisheries Ministry would provide the industry with "a home".

Previously it has reported to five government departments.

Last night Grant Rosewarne, chief executive of Nelson-based NZ King Salmon, said his company could grow from its existing five hectares of fish farms in the Marlborough Sounds to 20 hectares, possibly by the end of the next decade.

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