Farmer broke law, cops fine
A Wangapeka dairy farmer has been fined nearly $54,000 for straightening a section of a creek feeding the Wangapeka River and discharging effluent into the river via a pivot irrigator.
Aaron James Begg and his Ashburton registered Kauarel Dairy Ltd yesterday pleaded guilty in Nelson District Court to the charges and has been ordered by Tasman District Council to restore the creek's natural oxbow and replant and fence the waterway.
Prosecutor Antoinette Besier for Tasman District Council argued Begg had deliberately cut a straight 340-metre channel to bypass the creek's natural oxbow, filled in the oxbow, removed vegetation and damaged the aquatic habitat.
She argued the work was carried out over protracted period and has had a serious impact on the ecological values of Coal Creek.
She said Begg had told council staff he had "forgotten" to put purchased irrigator droppers, that turn off water flow, on to the irrigator near the river, so effluent was discharged directly into the river, she said
"He knew discharge to water was a no-no and should not have done it," Besier said.
It would take a few years for fish abundance to recover in Coal Creek, which had now lost its permanent high shading trees and would be spanned by culverts to allow irrigator access.
Judge Jeff Smith said the offending was deliberate, but Begg was trying to maximise his farm's profitability and he was now in the process of repairing the damage.
"It was low impact but highly deliberate," Judge Smith said.
Besier said there was nothing to indicate Begg was remorseful - rather his attitude was one of ambivalence. "The council has had to work alongside Mr Begg every step of the way and I was instructed to start preparing enforcement orders," she said.
Defence counsel Alistair Darroch said his client was apologetic about the situation and the effect of the conviction against him and his company would be significant.
In summing up Judge Smith said the court's primary purpose was to act as a deterrent, not as a licence fee. The work was deliberate and done in the knowledge a consent was required.
He fined Kauarel Dairy $42,375 and Begg, its sole shareholder and director, $11,400.
Council compliance and investigation officer David Shaw said Begg applied for and was granted a resource consent to carry out repair work under the supervision of an ecologist. The excavated channel had been filled in and the oxbow recreated. Planting and fencing of the area would be on-going.
The council's environment and planning manager Dennis Bush-King said it was inappropriate for him to comment on the case.
Begg's farm lies opposite the confluence of the Sherry River, where a community catchment group has received national acclaim for its work over the last 15 years to improve the river's water quality.
- The Nelson Mail