Two farming companies have been convicted of seven offences under the Resource Management Act and had fines imposed amounting to $60,000.
Tui Glen Farm Limited and Walling Family Farms Limited faced a joint prosecution relating to unlawful earthworks on two farms located at Otorohanga and Maungatautari.
The case brought by the Waikato Regional Council – and heard in Hamilton District Court before Judge Melanie Harland – concerned a series of events in late 2010 and early 2011 by the two companies that share common directors, resulting in a single prosecution.
Earthworks were undertaken by the two companies in high risk erosion areas and without adequate erosion and sediment controls. Abatement notices were subsequently issued by the regional council in relation to these earthworks. The prosecution also included charges relating to not complying with these notices.
The defendant companies entered guilty pleas to a total of seven charges. Judge Harland fined the companies $32,000 and $28,000 respectively.
Judge Harland stated that the offending showed a “rather cavalier attitude” towards the issue of sediment and erosion control. As the defendants were involved in earthmoving contracting, they were aware of the resource consent process and had previously been the subject of infringement notices for similar offending. Therefore “a more precautionary approach was required” before they carried out the work.
“This is clearly a situation where these two companies should have engaged with the council before commencing earthworks,” said the council’s investigations and complaints manager Patrick Lynch. “By applying for the appropriate resource consent they could have been guided to carry out the works in such a way as to have minimised any potential effect on the environment.
“Everyone involved has been very fortunate that there have been limited actual environmental effect from the unlawful activities of these two companies. However, that has been more by good luck than good management. For example, had the rain events of recent weeks occurred when these earthworks were being carried out there would have been significant sediment discharges to waterways.”