Company ordered to pay another $24,000 for diesel

Wednesday 28 February 2007, 7:10PM
By Sam Farrow


Christchurch manufacturer Steelbro NZ Ltd has been ordered to pay another $24,000 toward the clean-up cost resulting from a diesel spill in the Heathcote River in February 2005.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) had appealed a previous District Court sentence comprising a $10,000 fine for Steelbro and $20,000 in clean-up expenses.

The sentence came after the company was prosecuted over an incident where fuel thieves caused a diesel spill from its Sockburn site, polluting the Heathcote River and sparking a week-long clean-up operation. An estimated 3000 litres of diesel were washed into the river.

Hundreds of ducks were coated with diesel in the spill into the river at the time. ECan's Pollution Hotline team, city council parks staff, marine oil spill experts, a team from Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE), many local citizens and veterinarians were involved in the clean-up and duck rescue.

ECan asked the court to award clean-up costs to the amount of $44,000, which was paid toward volunteers, veterinary services and specialist equipment.

Delivering his decision in the High Court at Christchurch, Justice Graham Pankhurst said it was appropriate that Steelbro should pay the reparation that was sought by Environment Canterbury -- $44,000.

He did not agree with the previous judge's decision that ratepayers should share some of the cost. However, he agreed that the fine of $10,000 should remain in place, saying that the end result was in line with other similar decisions.

The original order that Steelbro pay another $16,000 for preventive work to avoid a similar diesel spill from again entering the nearby culvert and discharging into the Heathcote River, remains in force.

ECan's regulation hearing committee chairman Alec Neill said he was pleased that ratepayers were not burdened with paying the clean-up of a spill for which another party had been found responsible by the courts.

"Hopefully that will encourage companies to take more precautions to avoid such incidents," he said.