Another $54,000 in fines for dirty dairying

Ten South Otago dairy farmers or companies were collectively fined nearly $54,000 on the second day of a mass Otago Regional Council prosecution of dairy effluent offence charges brought before Environment Court Judge Jeff Smith in the Balclutha District Court yesterday.

The Otago Regional Council will pocket 90% of the fines imposed, meaning it will get about $88,000 from nearly two days of sentencings.

The solicitors fees and court costs imposed by Judge Smith are not included in the total.

Fines totalling more than $61,000 were issued by Judge Smith on Monday.

The theme of yesterday's hearing was again the repeated breakdown of irrigation machines (irrigators), leaving paddocks inundated with effluent, causing potential environmental problems.

Judge Smith said he did not want to sound like "a broken record" but defendants needed to ensure they checked their irrigators regularly and suggested some should consider updating their entire irrigation systems.

If they were used twice a day, the irrigators needed inspection twice a day, because they had a reputation for failing.

"I have said it once and I will say it again: if you are using a travelling irrigator, it will break down. That's a given."

The Environment Court, he said, was pushing for dairy farms in the South to consider adopting more reliable K-line irrigation systems and 90-day effluent storage, systems better suited to the harsher Southern climate.

• Brookhouse Farm Ltd and director Gijsbertus Broekhuizen (52), of Benhar, jointly admitted three charges of discharging effluent on to land in two separate incidents between October 1 and 12 and October 10 and 12 last year.

Counsel Chris Thomsen said there was no deliberate intention from the defendants to cause any kind of contamination but they may have been negligent in their actions.

Judge Smith said the first incident, involving the build-up of effluent in a gully, was more serious than the other, which involved an irrigator pumping effluent on to land.

On the first charge, the company was convicted and fined $5000, solicitors fees of $113 and court costs of $130; on the second, it was fined $4000, solicitors fees of $113, court costs of $130 and investigation costs of $1000.

On the third charge, it was convicted and discharged but ordered to pay solicitors fees of $113 and court costs of $130.

Broekhuizen was convicted and fined $2000 and solicitors fees of $113 and court costs of $130 on the first two charges and convicted and discharged with no costs on the third offence.

• Kaitangata company director Brendon Kent Gray (37) and his company, B. K. and D. A. Gray Ltd, both admitted two charges.

The first related to the discharge of effluent through water into a drain on Storer Rd between September 4 and 11 last year while the second matter involved discharging effluent causing ponding between the same dates.

Mr Thomsen said a short lapse of concentration on Gray's behalf led to the offending.

A much larger effluent storage tank had since been built on the property, which had 570 cows.

Judge Smith said that again it was hard to distinguish between Gray and the company.

The offending was "at the bottom end" of the scale and he treated the two charges as one event, deciding the major proportion of the blame should lie with the company.

However, Gray still had a personal liability.

On the first charge, Gray was convicted and fined $1500, solicitors fees of $113 and court costs of $130, while he was convicted and discharged on the second charge.

The company was convicted and fined $6500, investigation costs of $600, solicitors fees of $113 and court costs of $130 on the first charge and convicted and discharged on the second charge.

• Inch Clutha company Ashgrove Dairy Farms Ltd and company director Colin John Weir (59) each admitted a charge of discharging effluent where ponding occurred on or about October 18 last year.

There was no evidence the ponding entered waterways, but Mr Weir was initially aggressive when approached by council officers.

Judge Smith said the court had to support the work of environmental officers.

The judge said it was pleasing to see Weir apologised for his behaviour at the second visit, he said.

Ashgrove Dairy Farms Ltd was convicted and fined $5000, investigation costs of $1000, solicitors fees of $113 and court costs of $130.

Weir was convicted and fined $3000, solicitors fees of $113 and court costs of $130.

The fine reflected his initial bad behaviour, the judge said.

• Romahapa dairy farmers Neil Charles Kelly and Jacqueline Alma Kelly admitted a charge each of discharging contaminants into a stream which flowed, in diluted form, to a nearby beach between September 17 and 19 last year.

Because the couple were working in partnership, Judge Smith said he had no choice but to evenly split the penalty, although he noted they were not directly running the farm at the time of the offence.

He convicted both and fined them $2500 each and ordered both to equally pay their share of $1000 in investigation costs plus solicitors fees of $113 each and court costs of $130 each.

• Nigel Snell, farm manager, of Owaka Valley, admitted, together with Catlins Dairy Farm Ltd, discharging effluent, causing it to pond on land between October 5 and 9 last year.

The company, which runs the 700-cow farm, also admitted the same charge.

Counsel David Luoni said it was a one-off incident and a reporting system for staff had since been introduced.

Judge Smith saw the offence at "the lower end of the matter" but believed most of the responsibility lay with Snell.

He was reluctant to impose the usual starting point of a $10,000 fine because it was a one-off error and there were no adverse environmental effects from the discharge.

Snell was convicted and fined $4000 and ordered to pay solicitors fees of $113 and court costs of $130.

Catlins Dairy Farm Ltd was convicted and fined $2000 and ordered to pay $700 investigation costs plus solicitors fees of $113 and court costs of $130.

• The rest of the day involved a defended hearing where Ocean View Farm (No 1) Ltd and company director Peter Murray Fletcher (39) denied one charge each of discharging effluent that could have entered a tributary of the Owaka River between October 10 and November 7 last year and two charges of breaching the council's water plan by discharging effluent on to land, one between October 10 and November 7 and again between November 8 last year and February 11 this year.

That hearing continues today.


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