Draft approval for four new salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds could open up recreational coastlines for marine farm development, the Green Party says.
In a decision released on Thursday, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) said it would allow Marlborough District Council to change its rules to allow King Salmon to open farms at Papatua, Ngamahau, Waitata and Richmond.
The sites are spread across different parts of the sounds.
However, it declined the request for five other farms at Kaitapeha, Ruaomoko, Kaitira and Tapipi, and also the White Horse Rock farm.
The decision follows a nine-week inquiry in Blenheim, which heard from about 1200 submitters, many opposed.
An 11,000-signature petition opposing the farms was presented to parliament earlier this month.
Green MP Steffan Browning says the inquiry board ignored decades of consultation that formed Marlborough District Council's planning, along with most submitters and the local community, in reaching its decision.
"New Zealanders don't want companies overruling their community plans and polluting their pristine, recreational water space.
"With the four approved salmon farms all in pristine recreational areas where aquaculture is prohibited rather than in aquaculture zones, it is obvious that the Marlborough Sounds has reached capacity when it comes to farmed salmon.
"This decision will set a precedent allowing companies to apply to build marine farms anywhere on New Zealand's coastline."
King Salmon, which says it produces 70 per cent of New Zealand's farmed salmon, is owned by Malaysian company Evergreen Holdings and investment firm Direct Capital.
It already owns seven farm sites in the Marlborough Sounds, producing around 8500 tonnes of salmon each year.
King Salmon, government, council and submitters will be allowed to comment on minor or technical aspects of the decision before a final report is due in February next year.
In late March, the Auditor-General was asked to carry out an inquiry into the management, governance, and oversight …