In the past year, more than twice as many Otago farmers have
been prosecuted for offences - mainly relating to dairy
effluent and pugging - than the year before.
In the 12 months to July, the Otago Regional Council brought
19 prosecutions, up from seven the year before.
The number of infringement notices stayed static at 35,
figures released by the council showed.
Council resource management director Selva Selvarajah said
the numbers were a warning to land-users the council would
not tolerate "gross activity".
Prosecutions resulting in fines of $179,850 were mostly for
discharges of contaminants where they might enter water or
disturb a river bed, and 15 of the 19 prosecutions were of
farmers from the Clutha district.
In 2010-11, prosecutions resulting in fines of $105,650 were
evenly spread across the region: two each in Dunedin, Clutha
and Central Otago and one in Waitaki.
When a prosecution was taken, the courts imposed the sentence
The council, under the Resource Management Act, was given 90%
of the money from the fine. In the past two years, the
regional council received $678,418 in fines from the courts,
some coming from cases that dated back to 2008: the courts
allowed fines to be paid in instalments.
It cost the council $691,783 in total in staff time
($322,254), legal ($293,689) and external costs such as
hiring specialist witnesses to take those cases to court.
The most expensive cases were those where the charges were
defended, including one which cost the council $107,169 and
Fines were set by the court, not the council, Dr Selvarajah
"The fines are set as a deterrent by the courts."
It would take up to five years to see whether the council was
making a loss or a gain financially through taking people to
court. The council was not "revenue-collecting" through
Although the figures showed most running the region's 390
dairy farms were compliant, a recent focus on pugging and
sedimentation of waterways had brought prosecution numbers
back up, Dr Selvarajah said.
South and West Otago areas featured mainly because of their
tendency towards saturated soils and tile and mole drain
systems, he said.
From 2007 to 2009, prosecution numbers hit a high of about 25
a year because of effluent spills and ponding.
There had been a significant improvement but there was still
room for more, Dr Selvarajah said.
"The new plan change has foreshadowed no tolerance of
sedimentation, bed disturbance or effluent getting to water."
Prosecution numbers would probably go up as the council's
compliance unit furthered inspections, Dr Selvarajah said.