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$74k fine for dirty dairy farming

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 09:49 03/12/2012

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A Bay of Plenty dairy farm has been fined $74,000 in its second round of convictions for discharging effluent into a waterway within 18 months.

Opotiki company Riverlock Farms Ltd and directors Ian and Geoffrey Brown were found guilty after a two-day defended hearing in Whakatane District Court.

Last year the same company was convicted and fined $40,000 for discharging effluent from an effluent pond and discharging effluent from an irrigator where it could enter a waterway.

On Thursday the company and brothers were found guilty of three charges, including pumping underpass water containing effluent into a tributary of the Waioeka Stream, effluent flowing into the same tributary when an effluent pond overflowed. The third conviction was for failing to comply with a court order to obtain a report about the farms contingency plans for effluent management.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council was alerted to the offending by a member of the public. The offending occurred on October 18 last year - just three months after the company’s previous conviction in the Environment Court in Tauranga. Riverlock Farms is one of the largest farming operations in the Bay of Plenty, milking about 2,500 cows.

Chairman of the council’s operations, monitoring and regulation committee, Malcolm Whitaker, said the level of the latest fine reflected the deliberateness of the discharges.

‘‘A conviction on the breach of this previous enforcement order was necessary as the need to comply with a Court ordered direction is imperative. The company has spent in excess of $330,000 on upgrading their effluent system on the farm which was reflected by the Council not seeking a fine for that particular offence,’’ Whitaker said.

He said the conviction and fines ‘‘sends out a very clear message that discharges of this nature are not acceptable, particularly on farming operations of this size’’.

‘‘The regional council is very concerned that some dairy farmers running large herds are not paying enough attention to managing the farm’s effluent system properly, to the detriment of the environment. We are seeing cases where farms have expanded their operations without the subsequent investment in infrastructure upgrades,” Whitaker said.

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