A Putaruru farmer who burnt a stockpile of tyres, sending acrid black smoke across his neighbour's property, said he was not aware the fire was a health risk.
Bruce Leonard, 64, was this week fined $20,306 after admitting two breaches of the Resource Management Act. He was also told to pay $486 in costs and fees.
On September 20 last year, fire crews went to a blaze at a rural property in Taumangi Rd, north of Putaruru.
Volunteer fire officers arrived at the property and found thick, black smoke coming from the rear of the property. It was so dense it forced a neighbour to take refuge inside her house.
When fire officers told Leonard it was illegal to burn tyres, he became rude, aggressive and uncooperative.
Officers had to leave without putting out the fire.
Nine days later, a second blaze at the property was reported. Regional council inspectors visited and found the remnants of about 30 burnt tyres.
Judge Melanie Harland, sitting in the Hamilton District Court, said Leonard's attitude to fire staff was "completely unacceptable, rude and arrogant".
The judge said his culpability was high and the effect of his offending on the environment was considerable.
She accepted Leonard was remorseful, but questioned whether he was sorry for his offending or the circumstances in which he now found himself.
When council staff interviewed Leonard in November, he admitted lighting both blazes but said he did not think burning tyres could cause health issues.
Defence counsel Paul Gascoigne said since admitting the breaches, Leonard had researched ways farmers could dispose of used tyres legally. Leonard had also apologised to the fire service.
Speaking afterwards, council investigations manager Patrick Lynch said tyre-burning discharged highly toxic pollutants. Leonard declined to speak to the Waikato Times outside court.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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