Southland Regional Development Strategy planners are still holding out hope for a large-scale aquaculture development to take place in the coming years.
Aquaculture project leader Mark O’Connor said aquaculture was still a “primary focus” of the SoRDS Action Plan, despite the failure of the selected Stewart Island site to meet sustainability targets.
The plan to introduce salmon farming on a large scale, was one of the key pillars of SoRDS economic diversification plan.
However, following testing carried out in 2017 in Port Pegasus, the preferred option for aquaculture in the region was all but ruled out.
O’Connor said he was undeterred by the Stewart Island setback.
“Our work to date has been grounded in science and highlights the commitment to best environmental and social outcomes.
“Any feasibility data gathered, regardless of whether development occurs, delivers valuable information for the region.”
O’Connor said discussions were under way with key stakeholders to figure out the next step in the project.
This included working with Ngai Tahu and central Government to investigate all opportunities for future aquaculture development “including exploring coastal sites, land-based aquaculture and offshore aquaculture”.
Before Port Pegasus was settled on for the 2017 feasibility study, four other sites were noted as promising, including another two off Stewart Island, and Preservation and Chalky inlets in Fiordland.
Since then, the SoRDS team have moved on to look at different options for economic growth, including a recent report looking into the possibility of expanding Southland’s sheep-milking capabilities.
Outgoing SoRDS programme director Sarah Hannan said Southland retained significant environmental advantages for aquaculture.
Hannan said Southland, with particularly cold deep waters, had perfect conditions for certain species which might not necessarily be available further north.