Farmers who are serious polluters face significant fines from the Environment Court, as demonstrated by some recent prosecutions by Environment Waikato.
The Environment Court has recently handed down fines totalling nearly $80,000 for farm dairy effluent offences in the Waikato Region. The offences include:
- The most serious case involved a Maungatautari farmer, Christopher John Carrigan Trower, who was fined a total of $43,000 for discharging dairy effluent and sediment-laden run-off into a tributary of Lake Karapiro last year.
In sentencing, Environment Court Judge Smith described Mr Trower as a "dirty farmer”.
The case occurred following Mr Trower’s conversion of a dry stock farm on the flanks of Mount Maungatautari into a dairy farm. Mr Trower started to milk last season, but he had failed to install an adequate effluent system – which meant the entire effluent stream from the cowshed ran off down the side of a hill, ponded in the paddock, and then ran into a nearby stream, which fed into Lake Karapiro.
The pollution situation was made worse by the fact that Mr Trower had recontoured nine hectares of land without resource consent, so that severe erosion caused by heavy rain resulted in large amounts of sediment entering a stream which flowed into Lake Karapiro. Environment Waikato estimated that tonnes of sediment had contaminated the stream, and had gross effects in the stream over several hundred metres.
Apart from the Trower case, three other farmers from the Waikato Region have recently been prosecuted, resulting in fines ranging up to $11,000 for incidents involving:
- Raymond Claude Neems, who allowed effluent and copper footbath solution to pollute a waterway on his property near Tahuna, was fined a total of $11,000.
- Huitaha Limited, which has a farm near Putaruru, was convicted for allowing an irrigation pond to overflow into an effluent pond, which caused effluent to flow into a stream on the property. Judge Smith fined Huitaha Limited $8500, and the farm manager Stuart James Turner was fined $1000.
- Brent Trevor Bishop, a sharemilker near Gordonton, was convicted and fined $8500 for pumping effluent into a drain for more than a month after the effluent irrigator broke down. In the same case, James Robert Ross, a farm consultant from Hamilton failed to arrange supply of a new irrigator to Bishop, and was fined $7000 for his part in the pollution.
Commenting on the convictions, Environment Waikato’s chairman of the Regulatory Committee, Jim Howland said it was apparent the Court was viewing the problem of pollution discharges from farming seriously.
“The Court is sending a clear message that reckless disregard for environmental effects is not acceptable,” he says.
“It is unfortunate that some farmers are having to end up in front of a Judge before they get the message.”
Mr Howland says it is important to realise that farming is an industrial activity – and effluent is a by-product that must be carefully managed to prevent damaging the environment, which in turn can affect the future prosperity of the whole region.
Federated Farmers president, Peter Buckley, says that his organisation does not condone farmers who cause pollution problems.
“We certainly don’t condone farmers who are reckless polluters. They need to clean up their act, because otherwise they drag down the good name of the whole industry,” he says.
Environment Waikato says that the offences occurred during 2004 - well before Environment Waikato started helicopter monitoring in September 2005. The helicopter monitoring is making it easier to identify reckless or serious polluters.
“These cases are sending the clear message that farmers need to take personal responsibility for ensuring their effluent system is up to scratch,” says Environment Waikato’s compliance and enforcement manager, Rob Dragten.
“Farm staff also need to be aware that they cannot just turn a blind eye to pollution, as they may also be liable.”
“And with the new helicopter monitoring, polluters are much more likely to get caught.”
For more information contact:
Complaints and Enforcement Manager
Ph (07) 859-0829