The case concerned King Salmon’s proposal to establish and operate additional salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds.
After a lengthy saga of decisions and appeals, three questions were put to the Supreme Court:
- Whether the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (NZCPS) has standards or policies which must be complied with in relation to outstanding coastal landscape and natural character areas and, if so, did the Papatua Plan Change comply with s67(3)(b) RMA even though it did not give effect to NZCPS Policies 13 and 15;
- Whether the Board of Inquiry gave effect to the NZCPS in coming to a balanced judgment; and
- Whether the Board was obliged to consider alternative sites because the plan change was located in an outstanding natural landscape or outstanding natural character area.
The Supreme Court overturned the decisions of the High Court and the Board of Inquiry, and declined to grant the consent. Its decision turned on the interpretation of section 5 of the RMA, the characterisation of the relationship between the RMA and the NZCPS and the relationship between policies and objectives within the NZCPS, and the definitions of “avoid”, ”inappropriate” and “give effect to” as used in the RMA and NZCPS.
King Salmon was a case the outcome of which was very much determined on its somewhat unusual combination of facts, but decisions in the past year have shown that the Supreme Court’s decision will not be “confined to its facts”.
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