A proposal to establish eight new salmon farming sites in the Marlborough Sounds is to be referred to an independent Board of Inquiry.
New Zealand King Salmon says the amount of space involved would be about 10 surface hectares out of a total of 150,000 surface hectares in the Sounds.
Minister of Conservation Kate Wilkinson says the proposal involves two plan change requests and nine resource consent applications.
She says the economic benefits need to be weighed up alongside the use of natural resources and impact on an area of national significance and that is why the proposal is being directed to an independent Board of Inquiry.
Ms Wilkinson says the Board will determine whether to reject or accept the plan change requests.
She says if it accepts them, Marlborough District Council will prepare the change plan and the complete proposal will be publicly notified by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2012.