Whakatane dairy farm effluent sentencings

Wednesday 4 July 2012, 5:49PM
By Bay of Plenty Regional Council


A body corporate and two individuals were today sentenced in the Whakatāne District Court for the unlawful discharge of dairy effluent after separate prosecutions brought against them by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

In the first case, The Proprietors of Orete 2 & Other Blocks Incorporated (Orete Incorporation, based at Waihau Bay on the East Coast) was fined $45,000 for allowing effluent waste to flow over land and into the Waiare Stream, which is a tributary of the Tauranga Stream, which flows into Papatea Bay (between East Cape and Ōpōtiki).

This charge followed a call to Bay of Plenty Regional Council's Pollution Hotline on 26 September, 2011, in which a member of the public reported that the Tauranga Stream was green and smelled of effluent where it flowed into Papatea Bay.

When Bay of Plenty Regional Council officers visited the site, they found the farm's irrigator drag hose had become disconnected from the travelling irrigator, which led to effluent ponding that spilled into the waterway.

Orete Incorporation had previously admitted this charge in the Tauranga District Court on 17 May 2012.

In the second sentencing, Galatea man Eric John Steiner was fined $25,000 plus costs and his son Michael Eric Steiner, also of Galatea, was fined $15,000 plus costs for the unlawful discharge of dairy effluent which had flowed into a watercourse that is a tributary of the Horomanga River, near Galatea.

The court also imposed enforcement orders which require a fail-safe device and alarm system to be fitted on the farm's effluent irrigation system and the creation of an Effluent Management Plan for the farm which must be submitted to the Regional Council's within 60 days.

Michael Steiner was also ordered to complete an Ag ITO Dairy Farm Effluent Management course or similar approved by Regional Council. 

The charges related to a routine check by a Bay of Plenty Regional Council pollution prevention officer carried out on 19 October 2011 as part of Council's seasonal compliance monitoring programme.

The farm's travelling effluent irrigator was found with tyres so flat they had detached from their rims (image included below). The tube of one of the tyres was tangled around the axle, preventing the irrigator from moving along and distributing effluent evenly, which had contributed to the unlawful discharge.

The Steiners had previously admitted the charges in the Tauranga District Court on 17 May 2012.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Pollution Prevention Manager Nick Zaman said the majority of farmers were working hard to ensure they met the requirements of their resource consents and industry bodies and partners were working to help them achieve this.

"It's disappointing to every farmer putting in the effort to comply with their responsibilities. But, it's also disappointing because of how simple it is to avoid a prosecution," Mr Zaman said.

"With the proper maintenance and checks in place, these charges would never have eventuated. In each of these cases, if there were adequate systems in place to check and maintain effluent irrigation equipment, we wouldn't be here today.

"These cases include the second sentencing we have had within two weeks in which a concerned member of the public called our Pollution Hotline to report that a stream was green and smelled of effluent. This tells us that the community is taking a stand on this type of pollution. Again, we thank that person and urge others to do the same.

"We hope these sentences act as a deterrent to others."

Members of the public are encouraged to call the Bay of Plenty Regional Council's 24-7 Pollution Hotline - 0800 884 883 - if they have any environmental concerns.

For information and advice on farm management visit www.dairynz.co.nz or call your Bay of Plenty Regional Council Pollution Prevention Officer on 0800 884 880.