Data source
Date of text
17 Apr 2014
Seat of court
Original language


Type of text
National - higher court
Reference number
[2014] NZSC 38
Court name
Supreme Court of New Zealand
Elias CJ
Arnold and Young JJ
aquaculture, ecosystem approach, ecosystem management, ecosystem preservation, Ecosystem restoration, ecosystem service, marine protected area, spatial planning

In this case, a salmon farming company applied for changes in the Marborough Sounds Resources Management Plan in order to allow salmon farming in eight locations of the region. One of the sites concerned was neighbouring an Outstanding Natural Landscape of Outstanding Natural Character. The Board of Inquiry in charge of accepting the changes made in the Sounds Resources Management Plans considered that this latest site should be allowed even though it could compromise its natural character. Indeed, the Board of Inquiry considered that it has to consider the overall balance, and that the positive contribution the salmon farms would have on the regional economic and social being was justifying balancing the environmental impacts on the Natural Landscape.

The Environmental Defence Society (EDS) appealed the decision in front of the High Court. EDS claimed that the decision of the boards was violating section 67(3) of the 1991Resources Management Act which states that regional plans have to implement the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (NZCPS). But the NZCPS provides in its policy 13 and 15 that “adverse effects of activities on natural character in areas of the coastal environment with outstanding natural character” should be avoided. Consequently, the changes to the plan allowing salmon farms should be prohibited because of their environmental impact. But the High Court did not follow their reasoning and considered that the Board of Inquiry was in its right. Thus, it dismissed the appeal.

EDS pursued an appeal in front of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Judges overturned the decision of the High Court and considered that the decision of the Inquiry Board to change the Sounds Resources Management Plan was not in line with the NZCPS and with the 1991 Resource Management Act.