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Judge urges council to get tough on effluent

PENNY WARDLE
Last updated 12:10 25/07/2013
Philip Woolley
EMMA ALLEN/Fairfax NZ
NO PLEA: Dairy farmer Philip Woolley is facing 52 charges.

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Marlborough needs to get up to speed on enforcing environmental standards on dairy farms, Judge Jeff Smith said during an Environment Court hearing in Blenheim yesterday.

The Marlborough District Council case against Awarua Farming, owned by Philip Woolley, of Tuamarina, was the first of its kind he had heard for two or three years, Judge Smith said.

Council lawyer Peter Radich said it had "taken some time for this region to catch up". Awarua Farm had a history of environmental breaches.

Judge Smith said the Marlborough council's application for enforcement orders was the most constrained he had dealt with. It was not unusual for councils to request orders that offenders stop farming, reduce numbers or dry off stock after serious breaches.

"If the council can demonstrate it has taken all other steps, there is a point of time when [they] have to say ‘enough is enough'."

The orders requested were narrower than usual but "you are stuck with what you have asked for".

Radich described "plumes of greeny yellowy effluent of a fresh cow-mucky kind" being irrigated on to pasture at Awarua Farm.

Judge Smith said this was typical of what the court saw in the early days when waste was fed from a dairy shed sump or pond into a travelling irrigator and sprayed on to pasture every day.

In other areas of New Zealand, farmers were being prosecuted the first time they applied waste in saturated conditions or when there was a breakdown. Most councils required between 60 to 90 days of effluent storage or up to three to four months when groundwater was close to the surface, as at Awarua Farm.

Judge Smith rejected the argument from Woolley's lawyer that he was farming to resource consent conditions.

This argument had failed in many prosecutions because of objectionable effects on the environment, he said.

Woolley had abused compliance officers at his farm, and Judge Smith seemed surprised the council was asking the court to enforce less access than the Resource Management Act allowed.

Philip and Sue Woolley's 158-hectare Awarua Farm runs 700 cows. The Woolleys also own dairy and grazing farms in the Wairau Valley, a grazing property at Robin Hood Bay farm in Port Underwood, a dairy farm in the Matakitaki Valley near Murchison and the Edgewater subdivision at Rarangi beach near Blenheim.

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- The Marlborough Express

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