A South Waikato contracting company has been convicted and fined $19,000 for carrying out illegal earthworks on a farming property in Okoroire.
The charges against Peter Goodwin Excavating Limited included excavating a watercourse and carrying out earthworks without erosion and sediment controls in breach of the Resource Management Act.
The case, brought by Waikato Regional Council, related to earthworks and excavating the bed of a tributary of the Waihou River between June and September 2013. The tributary in question flows to the upper Waihou River, which is a high quality habitat and has been described as “one of the country’s best spring-fed rivers providing classic trout fishing in very clear water”.
The owner-operator company was engaged to carry out works in a gully system above the tributary. The regional council was notified by a member of the public who was concerned with the apparent damage being done by the works.
When regional council officers inspected the property they found the watercourse and environs had been excavated for approximately 1500 metres above the Waihou River causing significant damage and erosion. There was also evidence that a large volume of soil and sediment had discharged during the works into the tributary.
During the subsequent council investigation, company director Peter Goodwin said he did not consider the waterways to be streams and referred to them as “drains”. He stated that the works were “consistent with normal farm practices”.
However, the council’s investigations manager Patrick Lynch said: “Unfortunately we have had a number of cases in the Waikato where a few earthworks contractors have disregarded their own industry guidelines as well as environmental regulations. The courts continue to send a clear message to this sector that they need to play their part in managing our natural resources appropriately and sustainably.”
The announcement of the fine follows the final hearing of the case last week in the Rotorua District Court before Judge Thompson.