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Published: 2014-11-10 00:00:00

A Waikato dairy farmer has been convicted and fined $55,800 for illegally discharging effluent into the environment over a 19 day period.

The prosecution, brought by Waikato Regional Council, concerned events in June and July 2013, at a farm near Te Kauwhata owned by Joe Henry MacFarlane.

Council staff inspected the farm in July last year and discovered an effluent hose placed adjacent to a wetland on the property. It was found that the farmer had placed the hose there and had discharged all of the effluent from the farm’s dairy shed into the wetland over the previous 19 days.

It was found that the farm had virtually no storage for effluent. The farm’s usual practice was to irrigate effluent directly to land as it was being produced. There were no contingencies to deal with effluent in the event of inclement weather or mechanical failure.

Immediately prior to the offending, the irrigator had broken down and the effluent, estimated to be about 150,000 litres, was discharged directly to the environment instead.

The waterways from this wetland led to the nearby Mangakura Stream and then on to the Whangamarino Wetland, which is listed as a RAMSAR site of international significance.

In a recently released sentencing decision, Hamilton District Court Judge Melanie Harland said of the offending: “It was certainly careless and it was deliberate in the sense that the pipe was knowingly placed adjacent to the wetland area. However, there are reckless elements to it as well, because the system itself did not provide for any contingencies.”

Council investigations manager Patrick Lynch said: “With all of the attention and profile around water quality nationally it is very disappointing to find such an inadequate system and, even worse, to find someone who made the conscious decision to dispose of effluent into a wetland for a prolonged period.”