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Fines show intolerance of environmental offending

Significant fines handed out today to a Crafar farming company and members of the Crafar family are a clear sign of the intolerance the courts and the wider community have for environmental offending that further degrades water quality, says Environment Waikato.

Hillside Limited, Allan Crafar and Frank Crafar were each fined $29,500, and Elizabeth Crafar was fined $1500, by Judge Laurie Newhook in the Hamilton District Court after their conviction on a total of 34 charges related to the "systemic failure" of the effluent system on a farm near Hamilton. The fines totalled $90,000.

The farm was operated by a sharemilker but Judge Newhook had earlier found that the Crafars, as company directors, bore ultimate responsibility for the offending in that they failed to ensure the farm used proper effluent management.

As a result of that failure, an effluent holding pond leaked significant amounts of effluent and paddocks had too much effluent applied. That led to effluent getting into a nearby stream which flows into the Waikato River.

EW, which brought the charges against the Crafars under the Resource Management Act, said today’s sentences were a sign of the court’s and community’s intolerance of poor practices by the Crafars.

"The court has sent a strong message that it will not tolerate environmental offending of this kind," said EW’s regulatory committee chairman Ian Balme.

"Directors of companies have a clear responsibility to ensure their sharemilkers are doing things properly. They can’t blame poor effluent management on someone else."

EW’s complaints and enforcement manager Rob Dragten said protecting water quality was something the community is very concerned about. "EW will continue to remain vigilant about preventing farming practices that can hurt the health of our waterways.

"Letting excessive dairy effluent into waterways risks making people sick when they use rivers for recreation, and it can also stimulate the growth of weeds which affect the health of waterways," Mr Dragten said.

"EW has clear rules on effluent management and farmers need to make sure they know what they are, and comply with them.

"Most farmers and the wider agriculture industry are doing their best to minimise their environmental impacts. Only around 10 per cent of the farms we inspect have significant non-compliance with our rules on effluent management – it’s people like the Crafars who let the side down when they fail to do things right," said Mr Dragten.

He said he hoped the fines in this case would serve as a strong reminder that farmers needed to ensure they had comprehensive effluent management systems in place. "There’s plenty of information and support available from the likes of Fonterra, effluent consultants, DairyNZ and dairy industry publications."

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