Farmer fined $60,000 for dirty dairying

LYN HUMPHREY
Last updated 05:00 22/08/2012

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An Environment Court judge has handed down one of Taranaki's harshest penalties for dirty dairying.

Peter Jude Sullivan was fined $60,000 yesterday for twice breaching his resource consent in allowing effluent to overflow from a dairy shed holding pond and an irrigator near Manaia in September last year.

The fine is only $2000 short of the heaviest penalty, given to an Inglewood farmer in 2009.

At an earlier defended hearing, Judge Brian Dwyer found Sullivan guilty of the two breaches of the Resource Management Act.

Sullivan had argued that the fault lay with the sharemilker managing his 118 hectare farm, which was milking 580 cows at the time.

But as the farm owner and holder of the resource consent, Sullivan was the responsible person, the judge found.

The spill into the Hupati Stream was spotted on September 20 by a Taranaki Regional Council inspector who was visiting a downstream farm and saw the stream was running green with effluent.

Taranaki Regional Council prosecutor Karenza de Silva said the spill was one of the worst examples of its kind. Sullivan's attitude was completely irresponsible and there appeared to be a lack of remorse.

For Sullivan, Patrick Mooney said there was no evidence there was damage to the environment. Sullivan did care for the environment and in the past had taken steps to fix any problems.

In sentencing, Judge Dwyer said the effects of the spill, which flowed more than 700 metres downstream, would have overwhelmed the natural process of the stream.

The stream eventually joined the Kaupokonui River, which was highly valued for fishing and recreation. It was yet another example of pollution from dairy farms which the court was having to address, Judge Dwyer said.

"A small proportion of farmers seem not to have got the message."

Parliament viewed the offending as serious, having increased the maximum penalties to $300,000 or two years' prison, he said.

Sullivan's offending was serious. He displayed a lack of care and had no remorse. He had since increased the size of the effluent pond to cope with heavy rain.

Sullivan was fined $30,000 for discharging a contaminant from an effluent pond and the same amount for discharging effluent from an irrigator. He was ordered to pay solicitors' costs and court costs.

After sentencing, TRC compliance manager Bruce Pope said farmers needed to put compliance right at the top of their "to-do list".

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- Taranaki Daily News

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