A dairy farmer fined $45,000 for contaminating a stream leading to an important wetland accepts he has to "carry the can", even though he was not personally responsible for the pollution.
Selwyn Donald pleaded guilty last year to a charge of allowing dairy-shed effluent from his 123-hectare farm south of Featherston to enter a drain that ultimately flows into a lagoon of Lake Wairarapa, two kilometres from the farm.
The court heard that Mr Donald was on holiday in February 2013 when the offending occurred. He had entrusted operations to relief milker Daniel Hart.
While he was away, Mr Hart found there was a broken arm on an irrigator that spread effluent on land. He disconnected the hose from the dairy shed to the irrigator and left it on the ground, from where it discharged into the drain during eight to 12 milkings of about 320 cows over four days.
The regional council estimated the total discharge at between 90,240 and 135,360 litres, and said it would have had the potential to kill anything living in the drain for a portion of its route.
A routine inspection by a regional council inspector discovered the breach.
Mr Donald took immediate measures to stop the discharge and took full responsibility.
He also said Mr Hart had been told to contact him if there were any problems. Charges against Mr Hart were withdrawn when Mr Donald pleaded guilty.
The council said in court that the lagoon was part of a "significant" wetland complex inhabited by threatened species.
In sentencing Mr Donald yesterday in Masterton, Environment Court Judge Craig Thompson said the breach constituted "serious effluent offending". He convicted Mr Donald and fined him $45,000.
Mr Donald said "carrying the can" was the right thing to do, and the case should be a "huge wake-up call" for dairy farmers: "If they do go off the farm, that they make sure their infrastructure is right."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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