Nelson-based salmon farmers King Salmon have been given draft approval for four of nine new salmon farms it wanted in the Marlborough Sounds.
In a decision released on Thursday, the Environmental Protection Authority said it would allow Marlborough District Council to change its rules to allow farms at Papatua, Ngamahau, Waitata and Richmond.
The sites are spread across different parts of the sounds.
However, it declined the request for 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.
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.