Dairy farmer fined for discharge loses appeal

Riversdale dairy farmer Gilbert Watt.
Riversdale dairy farmer Gilbert Watt.

A dairy farmer who appealed against a $48,000 fine for effluent discharge into a creek has had his case dismissed by the High Court.

Gilbert Watt, who farms near Riversdale, had admitted discharging effluent to land in a way which allowed it to enter the Sandstone Creek, a tributary of the Mataura River, on March 30 last year.

In the initial case he was fined $48,000 and contract milker Tony Cabral, who was managing the farm where the discharge occurred, $5000.

The discharge happened after a travelling irrigator, which was not fitted with a failsafe device required under Mr Watt's resource consent, malfunctioned.

Mr Watt's defence was that he relied on Mr Cabral to monitor the irrigator.

He appealed the level of the fine because of the disparity between the two sentences.

In his written judgment, Justice Miller said Mr Watt was clearly culpable for the discharge. He had known about failsafe devices for travelling irrigators and had told Environment Southland in 2008 he would soon install one on the equipment.

However, he chose not to spend the $5000 to install one.

"His failure to do so is distinctly blameworthy," Justice Miller said.

Justice Miller backed the sentencing judge's starting points for the fine for Mr Watt and Mr Cabral, saying Mr Watt was the more culpable offender.

He also accepted the mitigating factors in the case which led to the $48,000 final figure, namely, Mr Watt's good character and participation in the Clean Streams Accord.

He dismissed the appeal.

The Southland Times