A Bay of Plenty farm company has been fined $35,000 for
illegally discharging effluent which flowed into waterways.
Bayfield Farms Limited, which farms 640 cows at Otamarakau
Valley Rd, Te Puke, was fined $35,000 plus $132.89 court
costs and $113 solicitor costs after it pleaded guilty in
Tauranga District Court yesterday to two breaches of the
Resource Management Act.
Bayfield Farms twice admitted that it permitted a contaminant
to discharge on to land or into land which resulted in the
effluent entering the Waitahanui Stream at Otamarakau.
The offences involved the unlawful discharge from an
underpass pond and an effluent contingency pond and were
uncovered on November 22 last year by a Bay of Plenty
Regional Council officer during a routine farm inspection.
The underpass discharge was caused by water from a nearby
orchard irrigation system accidentally flowing into the
underpass, causing its ponds to overflow.
This discharge and the contingency pond overflow entered the
same channel and flowed into the same farm drain, then into
the Waitahanui Stream.
The stream is a habitat and migratory pathway of indigenous
fish species, and ultimately flows into the sea about 10km
from the farm.
The regional council's lawyer, Adam Hopkinson, said these
unlawful discharges had resulted in "immeasurable" changes to
the stream and ultimately an important regional habitat.
Mr Hopkinson urged Judge Jeff Smith to impose a fine of up to
$60,000, saying this prosecution was "symptomatic" of the
same underlying compliance issues that had been occurring on
the farm for some time, with an abatement and an infringement
notice having been issued in the past.
The defendant had taken a "minimalistic and reactive
approach" to the problem which could have been avoided with
better farm management practices.
Bayfield Farms lawyer Peter Hardie argued the fine sought was
excessive, pointing out that his client conceded he relied
too heavily on his farm manager, but he had since taken
remedial steps to ensure the problem did not recur.
Judge Smith said while the underpass discharge had been an
"unexpected and untoward event", both discharges did flow
into the stream, and therefore this was serious offending.
The judge said a fine of $35,000 was appropriate and fair
after allowing the company discounts for guilty pleas,
remorse, and its clear intentions to avoid further offending.
- By Sandra Conchie of the Bay of Plenty Times