Consent sought for accommodation

Fiordland Marine Guardians chairwoman Dr Rebecca McLeod.

A WELL-KNOWN southern family has launched a bid to be allowed to stay overnight on their commercial barge nestled in the remote Fiordland sounds.

The Alpine Group Limited and Stephen William Day submitted a consent application to Environment Southland (ES) that, if approved, would allow its shareholders and families to use the structure for private accommodation up to 50 days of the year.

Southern aviator and Wanaka local Sir Tim Wallis and his family own most of the company shares.

The existing consent allowed occupation in Cascade Cove, Dusky Sound, and the permanently moored barge with helipad is used for commercial fishing trips.

It can now store no more than 4600 litres of fuel and can be used as an accommodation base for up to eight people when bad weather made it unsafe to fly.

The limited-notified consent would allow the installation of a 61.43 mwell as a storage shed on the landing deck and placement of two more fuel storage tanks 9200 litres in total.

ES acting consents manager Bruce Halligan explained the consent was limited notified because it was considered that the activities as proposed would take place in a remote location, and that potential effects on other users of the marine area in terms of public access, availability of anchoring and mooring space, visual and amenity values and navigational safety would be less than minor.

He said an original application had to be withdrawn in January this year as it did not include the proposed use of the barge for private activities.

Six people and groups were notified this month: Te Ao Marama Inc; Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu; Department of Conservation; CRA8 Rock Lobster Industry Association Inc; and Maritime New Zealand.

The Fiordland Marine Guardians were also notified and chairwoman Dr Rebecca McLeod said the group had concerns about the application and would be submitting.

While she would not comment further, she said it related more broadly to the group’s concerns about increased activity in the area.

“Compared to what it used to be 10 years ago, it’s just getting increasingly busy.

“It all adds up… the accumulative levels are adding up.”

She said the guardians opposed the application which was withdrawn in January.

The group was presently working with the regional council on its Regional Coastal Plan review, which was expected to be notified in 2023.

She said it was a document that needed to be visionary.

“I think every consent sets a precedent… we spend a lot of time analysing these applications.”

Similar concerns had been brought up in other consent application hearings on activities in the area.

In his decision for limited notification only, consents officer George Gericke explained the applicant considered the use of the barge for private accommodation and recreational activities would be virtually indistinguishable from the current consented commercial use.

“The applicant explains that those staying on the barge for a short time will generally spend the days travelling around the area by boat fishing, diving, walking or just enjoying the environment.”

He agreed with them the additional effects would be less than minor.

He explained that when considering the use of the barge for private accommodation, it must be viewed through the lens of the Regional Coastal Plan: he referred to a policy which states that if a particular need to use a barge for base/accommodation can be demonstrated, then this may be appropriate provided that the extent of any adverse effects is acceptable, and that uses require consideration on a case-by-case basis by way of resource consent.

“I consider that the private use of the existing barge would be in conjunction with, or incidental to, its demonstrated practical or functional need, and would be appropriate provided that the overall effects of the activities are acceptable.”

The applicant sought for the consent term to expire on April 12, 2037, to correspond with the expiry date for the applicants’ consent to undertake commercial surface water activities.

Submissions close on December 7.