$52,500 fine for Waikato farm over dirty dairying

Cazjal Farm Limited has been fined and convicted for effluent discharge (file photo).

Cazjal Farm Limited has been fined and convicted for effluent discharge (file photo).

A Waikato dairy farm company hit with a $52,500 fine for leaching effluent into a nearby stream had a system that could only cope with a fraction of what was generated by its 1000 cows.

Cazjal Farm Limited pleaded guilty and was sentenced in the Hamilton District Court on seven charges relating to discharging effluent into the environment and breaching council abatement notices ordering a halt to unlawful discharges, Waikato Regional Council investigations manager Patrick Lynch said.

"They've taken responsibility for what they have done," Lynch said. That's good but I suppose what is disappointing is that it took a prosecution for them to install a decent infrastructure.

"That should have been done prior to them milking cows."

The offending occurred at a Wharepuhunga farm near Otorohanga between June and October last year.

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The farm was converted from a dry stock farm to a dairy operation in 2014. At the time, farm owners were not required to inform council of farm conversions.

"There is now as a result a change in the rules in the Waikato and Waipa plan," Lynch said.

The prosecution was brought by the Waikato Regional Council, following "green stream complaints" from members of the public.

"Someone sees the stream, knows the stream and knows that it normally runs clear but it is running green," Lynch said.

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"We'll go out at attend and track upstream until we can find the point of discharge.

"What was found on these occasion is that they were using a single irrigator to spread effluent and it was done in such a way that it was running straight into that stream."

The farm is on hilly country and there is significant rainfall in the area.  

Council's investigation found that the farm was converted to an intensive dairy operation in early 2014 and, on occasion, would milk over 1000 cows.

That creates large volumes of dairy effluent at the cow shed and a feed pad. Lynch said. The effluent system was inadequate for the amount of cows on the farm.

"People who design effluent systems say that that farm, for a reasonable capacity, would need 8 or 9 million litres. The facility they had in place was 300,000 litres so it is woefully inadequate for that amount of cows."

"Their set up was such that it couldn't ever be compliant. They were always going to have discharges into the environment."

The farm owners, who did not want to comment, only upgraded their effluent system after the prosecution was taken.

Council documented four separate times where effluent was discharged into the environment and council staff were in contact with the farm owners prior to prosecution with a formal notice to make changes.

"They've installed a really large storage facility which is great. It still has to be managed.

"You've got to have the good infrastructure in the first place and you've got to have the good day to day management. The management becomes impossible if you don't have the infrastructure."

In his sentencing decision, Judge David Kirkpatrick said: "I appreciate that the cost of conversion is significant, but it is not an acceptable approach to move some of that cost on to the environment by delaying the installation of a complete effluent disposal system."

 - Stuff

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