Morrinsville-based New Zealand Mushrooms has been fined a total of $32,000 after admitting six charges brought by Environment Waikato related to the discharge of objectionable odours from the company’s composting operation.
In a reserved decision released by the Hamilton District Court this week, Judge Melanie Harland said NZ Mushrooms’ neighbours should not have been required to put up with the company’s "recurrent" offending.
The judge said one complainant described a smell in June 2006 as "resembling a dead animal" , while a council enforcement officer said he could "taste" odour in the back of his mouth while investigating a neighbour’s complaint in August 2006.
"I find that whilst the offending was not deliberate, the defendant has allowed the circumstances of the offending to arise," Judge Harland said. "Whilst the charges relate to specific dates, it is clear that the problems over the period of the charges were ongoing in the sense that the complaints continued to arise…the neighbours should not have been required to put up with it."
Judge Harland said $40,000 would have been an appropriate starting point when considering the levels of fines. But she gave the company credit for guilty pleas to the charges and for subsequently trying to deal with the problems.
EW’s complaints and enforcement manager Rob Dragten said the hefty fines sent a strong signal that companies such as NZ Mushrooms could face stiff consequences if they failed to manage odour discharges properly.
"Ongoing smells can have a significant impact on people’s emotional health and quality of life. Companies need to ensure that they have proper systems in place to prevent objectionable odours from escaping from their operations."