The dairy industry continues to account for the largest number of prosecutions under the Resource Management Act, according to new figures.
An Environment Ministry report published yesterday shows that nearly half of all prosecutions in the period between July 2008 and September last year involved dairy effluent.
The report, A Study into the use of Prosecutions under the RMA 1991, 1 July 2008-30 September 2012, analysed all 429 prosecutions taken over the period.
Offending involving the unlawful discharge of dairy effluent accounted for 208 of prosecutions, or 48.5 per cent.
The agriculture sector as a whole accounted for 62 per cent of prosecutions, and three-quarters of the highest fines imposed by courts. The commercial sector made up 26 per cent of prosecutions, and the industrial sector 7 per cent.
Similar reports over previous periods since 1991 have shown the average number of prosecutions a year had risen from 39 to 101, and the proportion of prosecutions for discharging contaminants to water had increased from 47 per cent to 58 per cent.
About 90 per cent of parties prosecuted were found guilty. All but a small number of these had pleaded guilty.
The level of fines has increased from $6500 in the 1991-2001 period to $21,622 in the latest. The highest fine imposed went from $50,000 to $120,000.
Of those parties convicted over the latest period, 15 per cent were found to have deliberately offended, 10 per cent were found to have an element of deliberateness, and 20 per cent had a high level of carelessness or negligence.
The councils undertaking most prosecutions are Otago Regional Council (17 per cent), Environment Southland (12 per cent) and Environment Waikato (11 per cent).
Twenty-two of the country's 78 councils had undertaken at least one prosecution in the latest period.
- © Fairfax NZ News