Opotiki dairy farmers Riverlock Farms Limited, and directors Ian Brown and Geoffrey Brown, have been fined a total of $74,000 plus costs on charges brought by Bay of Plenty Regional Council of discharging contaminated underpass liquid to waterways in October 2011.
Following a two-day defended hearing in the Whakatāne District Court the defendants were also convicted and discharged on a charge of breaching an enforcement order imposed as part of a July 2011 sentencing for an earlier offence.
The defendants were charged with pumping underpass water containing contaminants directly into a roadside drain on 18 October 2011. The drain led to the Waioeka River via a tributary stream. The second discharge occurred when wastewater from a nearby effluent pond overflowed into the same drain. The third charge related to the company failing to comply with a Court order that they obtain a report about the farm's contingency plans for effluent management.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council Operations, Monitoring and Regulation Committee Chairman Malcolm Whitaker said the level of the fine reflected the deliberateness of the discharges.
"One year earlier the defendants pleaded guilty to offences relating to two discharges of effluent at the same property. At this week's hearing the Court heard from the defence that they have one of the largest farming operations in the Bay of Plenty, milking about 2,500 cows on their farms," he said.
"A conviction on the breach of this previous enforcement order was necessary as the need to comply with a Court ordered direction is imperative. The company has spent in excess of $330,000 on upgrading their effluent system on the farm which was reflected by the Council not seeking a fine for that particular offence.
"However the conviction for the wastewater offences sends out a very clear message that discharges of this nature are not acceptable, particularly on farming operations of this size. The Regional Council is very concerned that some dairy farmers running large herds are not paying enough attention to managing the farm's effluent system properly, to the detriment of the environment. We are seeing cases where farms have expanded their operations without the subsequent investment in infrastructure upgrades."
He said there were many resources available to farmers on effluent management through dairy farming organisations, such as Fonterra and DairyNZ.
Mr Whitaker commended the member of public who alerted the Regional Council to the October 2011 offences.
"The Council relies on the public reporting any pollution incidents that they witness, which are often received through the Pollution Hotline (0800-884-883)" he said.