A company that owns a number of farms in South Waikato has been fined more than $30,000 for illegally discharging dairy effluent into the environment.
Waikato Regional Council initiated an investigation at one of the farms owned by Fernaig Farms (2006) Limited in February 2012 after effluent issues were identified.
Council staff found that the effluent storage pond on the Mangakino farm did not have sufficient capacity and was overflowing into a nearby gully.
An effluent irrigator was also found to be operating at such a slow speed that it caused a large volume of effluent to pond on land, causing a risk of contamination to ground water.
Subsequent to the council launching an investigation, the company spent $250,000 upgrading the effluent system at the property.
In the Hamilton District Court, the company pleaded guilty to two charges under the Resource Management Act and was this week convicted and fined $30,037.
Judge Melanie Harland acknowledged the improvements made by the defendant but commented that “the court is always mindful not to allow the rectification of an inadequate system to count as a mitigating matter”, however, “the defendant has gone well beyond what would be required”.
Judge Harland also commented that “the court has on many occasions referred to the need for there to be sufficient capacity within effluent systems”.
The company had previously been issued infringement notices for unlawful discharges of effluent into the environment but suggested in court that these were “administrative” in nature and did not prompt them to make improvements to their effluent system.
Council spokesperson Patrick Lynch said: “We are pleased that this farming entity seems to be taking their environmental responsibilities seriously now but it is disappointing that they did not change their practices earlier, particularly after receiving infringement notices for previous non-compliance. If they had made changes to their system then, they could well have avoided the cost and stress of a prosecution.”