A Waiuku-based company has been hit with a record $114,000 fine for dirty dairying after deliberately pumping effluent into a stream.
Fenwick Farms pleaded guilty to seven charges of unlawfully discharging dairy effluent into water and onto land between August and September last year.
The $114,000 fine, imposed by Judge Melanie Harland in the Auckland District Court, is the largest fine dished out in the Waikato region for dairy pollution.
And dairy leaders have come out in support of the judgment, saying polluters need to be held accountable.
This fine cames just a day after another Waikato farmer, Christopher John Howard Empson, was fined $47,000 after admitting 10 Resource Management Act breaches relating to multiple incidents of dairy effluent behing illegally discharged into the environment.
Waikato Regional Council staff visited Fenwick Farms' Forestry Rd property after receiving a complaint from a member of the public about contaminated water seeping from the dairy farm into a stream.
At the property, council staff found an effluent system set up to deliberately discharge effluent to a stream.
A council investigation found large volumes of effluent had been pumped to the stream on a number of occasions.
Other unlawful effluent discharges were also found on the property.
Diane and Roger Fenwick are listed as Fenwick Farms sole directors.
Judge Harland said although Mr Fenwick admitted the offending he did not seem to appreciate the seriousness of it, describing the breaches as "minor".
"I have formed the view that once 'caught', the defendant through Mr Fenwick responded quickly to resolve the issues that led to the offending, but this does not in my view reduce the company's culpability," the judge said.
Speaking afterwards, council's investigations manager Patrick Lynch said it was "unbelievable" a farmer would deliberately pump raw effluent straight into a waterway.
Mr Lynch said in his eight years in the role, it was the most significant act of deliberate polluting he had come across.
"Often in an RMA setting you end up dealing with discharges that have happened perhaps through negligence or a want of care, but it's quite rare to find someone who deliberately discharges into the environment," Mr Lynch said.
"The very high fine imposed clearly reflects the seriousness of this case.
"I'd like to think farmers manage their effluent properly for the right reasons but even for no other reason than a purely business and financial reason, farmers surely cannot be affording to pay fines in excess of $100,000."
Federated Farmers Waikato provincial president James Houghton was "disappointed and frustrated" at the Fenwick's offending but said it didn't reflect the dairy industry as a whole.
"I would say this type of deliberate offending is very rare and we will support the regional council in actively pursuing those farmers that do that," he said.
The Times was unable to contact the Fenwicks for comment.Federated Farmers Waikato Dairy chairman Chris Lewis said the organisation wouldhelp farmers who do the right thing but would not turn a blind eye to those who let the side down.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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