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Published: 2012-06-28 00:00:00

A Te Awamutu farming company has been fined nearly $32,000 for illegally discharging dairy effluent.

The case, brought by Waikato Regional Council, concerned two events over February/March and August last year at a farm in Candy Rd owned by Wyebrook Farms Limited.

Following helicopter monitoring by the council in August 2011, a ground inspection was carried out at the Wyebrook property. This inspection showed that effluent from a holding pond was overflowing at five separate locations into a nearby stream, which was a tributary of the Waipa River. This stream flowed approximately 700 metres to the Waipa.

The subsequent council investigation found that, some five to six months earlier, a large pile of effluent scrapings had been removed from an effluent bunker and placed on the adjacent paddock surface resulting in further discharges into the environment.

The prosecution was based on the discharges from both the February/March and August incidents. The defendant pleaded guilty to the two Resource Management Act charges arising from these incidents.

The matter was heard in Hamilton District Court before Judge Melanie Harland. Commenting on the environmental effect of the discharge to the stream on the waterway, Judge Harland said that “the overriding concern is the cumulative effect of such discharges to waterways”.

The judge agreed that this was moderately serious offending and that the discharge to the waterway had been ongoing for at least several days. She was also satisfied that there were significant management failures that contributed to the overflow into the waterway.

In relation to the pile of effluent scraping on the paddock surface, Judge Harland said “the message needs to be clearly sent that effluent management is a matter of top priority”.

Wyebrook was fined was fined a total of $31,875 and ordered to pay costs and fees of $491.78.

“Despite all of the positive environmental protection work being done within the farming industry, we are still finding dairy farms that simply do not place effluent management as a priority in their business, resulting in unacceptable discharges into the environment,” said the council’s investigations and complaints manager Patrick Lynch.

“Now that there is a code of practice and design standards for effluent systems, there is no excuse for not knowing how to manage effluent appropriately. Farmers need to ensure they have effluent systems designed by accredited designers so that they can comply at all times.”