NZ farmer fined for effluent discharge

06 Oct, 2017 11:50 AM
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Water in this catchment runs to rivers which flow to iconic lakes.

A New Zealand farmer and his company have been fined a combined $NZ58,875 after each admitted two dirty dairying offences in a "particularly sensitive" environment.

Environment Southland was alerted to the first offence on November 22 when receiving a complaint through its pollution hotline about a waterway running "green" at Lady's Mile Rd, Te Anau in NZ's Southland region.

Johannes Vernooij and a company he is a director of, White Waters Limited, which owns the farm the discharge took place on, subsequently admitted a charge of discharging dairy effluent to land in circumstances that may result in it entering water.

A compliance officer who visited the farm discovered that an effluent line, between the receiving pond and main effluent pond, had been damaged several days earlier, a summary of facts says.

The effluent had discharged and accumulated over a blocked tile drain on the Kakapo Rd farm.

The drain had then been unblocked which resulted in the effluent discharging into the waterway, the summary says.

The remedial steps taken to that point were "inadequate".

The effluent had entered a small tributary of the Whitestone River, a significant water body recognised for its outstanding natural features and recreational and tourist activities, the summary says.

The combination of oxidising soils in the area and the close proximity to significant water bodies raised concerns regarding the cumulative effects that discharges would have on the environment.

Environment Southland lawyer Josh Shaw said Mr Vernooij's compliance history was "less than stellar" and the November offending could easily have been prevented if some straightforward steps had been taken.

Mr Vernooij had a consistently bad compliance record dating back to 2008, he said.

Environment Court Judge Brian Dwyer, who convicted both Mr Vernooij and the company, was told the effluent discharge was the result of a farm worker not adhering to instructions.

The judge put the incident down to the worker being reckless and a lack of supervision.

The surrounding environment affected by the effluent discharge was particularly sensitive, he said.

"Water in this catchment runs to rivers which flow to iconic lakes," he said.

It was not possible to say how much damage the effluent discharge had done to the environment, which was often the case in similar situations.

"Often, by the time council officers find it, the worst has already occurred," he said.

The second incident, in March, which Mr Vernooij and White Waters Limited were also convicted for, was for discharging dairy effluent to land in a manner which contravened a regional rule.

Judge Dwyer said a pump had broken down and effluent had pooled in a limited and confined area on the farm.

It was detected by Environment Southland staff doing a routine inspection.

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